Talented New Zealand cyclist Josh Atkins defied oppressive heat to sit third on the general and under-23 classification after the opening road stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne today.
The 20-year-old from Christchurch is 17 seconds behind Aaron Donnelly, who outsprinted fellow Australian Calvin Watson and Aitkens at the end of a 147.7km feat of endurance from Sunbury to Bendigo.
Temperatures exceeded 40degC en route, a heatwave that forced organisers to purchase every bottle of water available at the Redesdale general store after race supplies were exhausted about midway through a stage which started two hours earlier than originally scheduled in a bid to protect riders.
The tour-opening prologue winner Jordan Kerby finished in 25th place, 2 min 35sec behind Donnelly (4hr 9min 57secs).
James Oram was the next best New Zealander in 13th overall, 2min 52sec behind the leader. Westley Gough (+5min 21sec), Tom Scully (+6min 42sec), Mike Northey (+8min 52sec) and Greg Henderson (+8min 53sec) are also inside the top 50 of the 104-strong field.
It was a tough day for retirement-bound former New Zealand Olympian and Tour de France rider Julian Dean, who is 73rd on the GC, 16min 30sec behind Donnelly.
The tour continues tomorrow with a 146.6km journey from Mitchelton Winery to Healesville and ends on Sunday with a 93km trawl from Moonah Links to Arthurs Seat.
- Fairfax Media
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