Australian ace's sprint finish to win final stage

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 28/01/2013
Thomas Palmer
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

SPEED DEMON: Australian Thomas Palmer leads a sprint finish across the line to win stage five of the New Zealand Cycle Classic in Palmerston North yesterday.

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Thomas Palmer had been waiting all week for a sprint finish, and he made the most of it once it came.

The Australian won the final stage of the New Zealand Cycle Classic of Manawatu yesterday, leaving the rest of the bunch for dead in a burst down Palmerston North's Main St.

His Drapac Professional Cycling team-mate, Malcolm Rudolph, led the breakaway group for most of the 117-kilometre stage around Rongotea and Glen Oroua before he was sucked in by the peloton. Palmer then stepped up.

"I haven't seen a finish yet," Palmer joked.

"I'm sick of asking my teammates what happened at the finish.

"The racing here has been really aggressive. There's been wind and hills, and days like today are more what suits me."

He said he played a supportive role earlier in the hill stages, so his legs felt good and helped him get the right result.

It was the only proper sprint finish of the tour, as all the other stages were won by breakaway riders.

Stages two and three were in the northern Manawatu hills around Apiti, while stage four was a gruelling climb up Saddle Rd, a new stage this year.

Yesterday's stage five over the flat straights, another new stage, was better suited to Canberra sprint ace Palmer, but he won't be asking race director Jorge Sandoval for any more flat stages next year.

"With the small teams, it's hard to control. The wind here and the hills definitely play a part, and especially the stage [on Saturday], which finished on top of a hill.

"But often it's the style of racing that makes the sprint finishes, rather than the course itself. I think the terrain's really good, the tour's a good mix and I'll definitely be back."

Drapac's best result was William Walker, who was third in general classification, 1 minute 19 seconds off the pace. They were third in the team category, 22min 12sec behind the winners.

Even though Drapac didn't win the tour, Palmer was happy to finish on a positive note, which he put down to Rudolph's hard work in the breakaway.

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- Manawatu Standard

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