Tour leader Evelyn Stevens wins by a whisker

Last updated 05:00 27/02/2012
Evelyn Stevens
HANGING ON: NZ Women's Tour of NZ winner Evelyn Stevens.

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American Evelyn Stevens hung on to her slender lead to win the women's cycle tour of New Zealand when it finished in Palmerston North yesterday.

New Zealander Linda Villumsen won the final stage, but Stevens had a 27-second advantage from Saturday which was trimmed to one second ahead of Shara Gillow from the GreenEdge-AIS team.

Despite opening a gap of more than six minutes over the tour's main contenders the previous day, Stevens only just snuck home in the end, finishing in the peloton with Gillow in the final stage.

"I was absolutely nervous, I won't lie," Stevens said of her one-second win.

"The team rode incredibly the whole way and the weight of the yellow jersey was on my shoulders."

A big breakaway in Saturday's stage gave her the yellow leaders jersey, but Stevens put it down to plenty of hard work by her team.

"I get to wear the yellow jersey right now, but it was completely a team USA yellow jersey," she said.

"It stays with one person's shoulders, but the whole team should have yellow jerseys."

Stevens took the leader's jersey from team-mate Kristin Armstrong, who led the tour for the first three days.

Armstrong is trying to make it into the United States Olympic team, but Stevens said there wasn't any rivalry over who got to win the tour.

"She [Armstrong] is a classy competitor," Stevens said. "That's the great thing about coming to this race. We all come here racing for the United States to win."

Villumsen (GreenEdge-AIS) won the 111.9-kilometre final stage in 2hr 39min 35sec.

She was followed home by Monia Baccaille from the Italian national team and Shara Gillow (GreenEdge-AIS), who both finished 1min 55sec behind her.

Stevens' overall time of 13hr 8min 56sec was 1sec ahead of Gillow and 13sec up on third-placed Taryn Heather (Jayco-AIS).

Reta Trotman, from the New Zealand national team, was the best-placed Kiwi, taking fifth in an overall time of 13hr 9min 23sec.

Team-mate Kaytee Boyd won the Queen of the Mountains category, Loren Rowney (Victorian Institute of Sport) took the sprinters' classification and Jessica Allen (VIS) was the best under-23 rider.

GreenEdge won the team overall classification, followed by the United States team and Jayco-AIS. Fairfax NZ

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