The New Zealand Cycle Classic heads into the decisive part of the tour this weekend with one Australian team still having a tight grip on the leader's jersey.
Nathan Earle of the Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers team retained the yellow jersey after the 161km third stage of the tour from Palmerston North to Apiti and back yesterday, despite Kiwi Jason Christie winning the stage.
While the fourth stage today is 135.5km, and finishes at the top of the Saddle Road, Earle believed tomorrow's flat 117km stage near Rongotea and Himatangi could be just as important.
"I think tomorrow will definitely be the deciding one, but stage five it is flat and if it's windy, it's a pretty nasty, flat circuit," Earle said.
"But definitely the next couple of days are going to be pretty challenging so we're not going to slack off.
"We need to be alert the next couple of days and not get too comfortable in yellow."
Earle has a 36-second lead over team-mate Ben Dyball and another 40 seconds over Alex Frame and with potentially the hardest two days of the tour still to go, it will take something special to catch him.
Genesys have controlled the race well and had a simple plan to make sure they stay on top.
"We'll be all over everyone, not giving anyone much room to breathe. That's what we've got to do, be alert and have a guy there all the time in every move, never be on the back foot.
"I think we've done it well so far and the guys are getting a little bit tired but I think they'll be right for the rest of the week."
Christie was part of a 10-strong breakaway who left the bunch after about 35km.
He put his foot down with about 25km to go, however, holding a lead of nearly two minutes back to the chasers, who were 3min 18sec in front of the peloton.
Earle held his place in the peloton and let his team mates set the pace.
The wind made yesterday, a reverse of stage two, a lot harder for the riders with a crosswind and headwind most of the way home. There were no changes in the other categories, with all the respective riders keeping their jerseys.
Paul Odlin keeps the green sprint jersey, Chris Jory still leads the King of the Mountain category, Frame is still the leading under-23 rider and Genesys leads the teams.
Stage three results: 1. Jason Christie (Armstrong Motor Group) 3h59m27s; 2. Nathan Elliot (Seight Custom Cycle Clothing) at 01m50s; 3. Malcolm Rudolph (Drapac Professional Cycling) at 02m14s; 4. James Williamson (New Zealand) at 02m14s; 5. Luke Ockerby (Budget Forklifts) at 02m14s; 6. Sam Rutherford (GPM-Data 3) at 02m14s; 7. Kieran Hambrook (Team Tineli) at 02m16s; 8. Patrick Bevin (New Zealand) at 03m18s; 9. Alex Frame (Trek-Vittoria) at 03m18s; 10. Matt Cronshaw (Meridian Cycling) at 03m18s.
Overall standings: 1. Nathan Earle (Genesys) 7h40m05s; 2. Benjamin Dyball (Genesys) at 36s; 3. Alex Frame (Trek) at 40s; 4. Patrick Shaw (Genesys) at 46s; 5. William Walker (Drapac) at 54s; 6. Samuel Horgan (Budget) at 01m02s; 7. Chris Jory (GPM) at 01m02s; 8. Michael Torckler (NZ) at 01m04s; 9. Tim Rush (Tait Communications) at 01m36s; 10. Ryan Wills (NZ) at 01m37s; 11. Matt Cronshaw (Meridian) at 05m37s; 12. Jason Christie (Armstrong) at 07m20s; 13. Malcolm Rudolph (Drapac) at 09m12s; 14. Nathan Elliot (Seight) at 09m20s; 15. Kieran Hambrook (Tineli) at 09m40s; 16. Sam Rutherford (GPM) at 09m48s; 17. James Williamson (NZ) at 10m01s; 18. Darren Lapthorne (Drapac) at 10m14s; 19. Joseph Lewis (GPM) at 10m22s; 20. Paul Odlin (Armstrong) at 10m27s; 21. Thomas Palmer (Drapac) at 10m29s; 22. Scott Thomas (Tait) at 10m37s; 23. Blair Windsor (Budget) at 10m41s; 24. Clinton Avery (Trek) at 10m43s; 25. Morgan Smith (Capital Cycles) at 10m45s.
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