Aaron Gate has accumulated enough points to guarantee that as long as he finishes the final stage of the Tour of Austria he will be crowned king of the mountains. It will be the first time that Gate has ever won a king of the mountains classification and he’s done it in dominant fashion leading from day 1.
In his entire career to date, only twice has Aaron Gate of Aqua Blue Sport even scored points in a king of the mountains classification in UCI events. At the Herald Sun Tour in 2017 he scored 6 (not quite up to Benjamin Hill’s winning 90pts) and in An Post Ras in 2015 he scored 3 while teammate Aidis Kruopis won with 31pts. Safe to say that this is not something that Gate is exceptionally familiar with.
“I can’t say that last week I would have thought I was going to win the King of the Mountains jersey in this race – plus 48kg of sausage – at the Tour of Austria but great things can come!” Aaron said post-stage 7. “I’ve been working really hard on the bike lately and it looks like it’s paying off which is cool.”
To ensure that the battle for the chequered jersey didn’t go down to the final day, Gate needed to once again make the breakaway and take KOM points; fending off the challenge of Davide Orrico of Team Vorarlberg Santic. The battleground for what could be the decider for the KOM classification would be the 129.3km between Waidhofen/Ybbs and Sonntagberg which featured four and a bit laps of a 30km circuit, featuring a category 2 climb of 3.7km averaging 9.2% every time.
The KOM rivals Gate and Orrico, who have stood head and shoulders above the rest in the classification, were once again at their usual breakaway tricks. Also in the breakaway of 13 riders was the KOM’s third placed rider, Matej Mohoric of Bahrain Merida. But it was Gate who immediately stamped his authority on the climbs, taking maximum points at the first to take 8 points and edge closer to the title.
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Second time to the points it was Gate again who took the line honours, and while Julian Cardona of EF Education First-Drapac took the third climb’s maximum points, by coming second Gate assured that the jersey – and 48kg of Austrian Wiesbauer sausage – would be his.
“I’m very tired but very pleased,” Gate said. “Once I made it clear on the first climb that I was going for it I was able to do it again the next time. The race was on the third time and attacks were starting, but I still managed to get a few points to get it 100% sealed so tomorrow the points on the road are more or less meaningless and we can focus on something else.”
Antonio Nibali of Bahrain Merida took the stage honours, with the general classification all but secure for Ben Hermans of Israel Cycling Academy; teammate of Kiwi Hamish Schreurs.
While Aaron Gate’s work to secure the king of the mountains classification is just about wrapped up, Aqua Blue Sport have one final card to potentially play in tomorrow’s final stage in the form of fellow Kiwi Shane Archbold.
“Hopefully we can set up a nice sprint for Shane in what looks to be a sprint finish. He’s been a little bit under the weather but hopefully he can find his sprinting legs and we can secure a stage win,” Gate said.