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A true Tour of Southland stage
Nov 4th, 11. If yesterday was the Queen stage of the PowerNet Tour of Southland, then today was the King stage.
After a very testing day, PureBlack Racing's Tim Gudsell took the stage victory ahead of a small group of top General Classification contenders and moved himself into 2nd place overall.
He made a move in the last 30km and rode solo away from a high powered small break group.
"It's huge for me, this is my first stage win at the Tour of Southland. I have ridden this race many a time and worn all the jerseys, but never won a stage. This means a lot to me, for our team," Gudsell said after the 167km stage from Invercargill to Gore.
"We have raced solidly all week to try and gain the yellow jersey and this was a bit of a reward for all their work."
While Gudsell took the win, race leader Josh Atkins and his PowerNet team retained the yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow's final day.
They battled horrid crosswinds, zero degree temperatures, sleet, a race defining split in the first few kilometres plus plenty of General Classification attacks - anyone out on a bike today deserves to be called a legend.
Today's stage will be added to the already many chapters that make up the tales of the history of the PowerNet Tour of Southland.
"It was probably the toughest day of the race conditions wise, it was blowing a gale all day long," Gudsell said from the warmth of his team van after the stage.
"Hats off to PowerNet and Josh Atkins' team, they rode an amazing race today. There were so many guys still in contention for the lead so they kept having a crack. They fought to the bitter end, but I was just lucky to have the support of the teammates arround me to look after me until that last 30km section where the race was going to get exposed.
"I am just really happy to have made the most of it," he said.
How the race panned out
After just half an hour of racing a significant split in the peloton determined the shape of the race for the following four hours. While most of the General Classification leaders were in the front group, Kia Motors' George Bennett, 3rd on GC, was not.
Over the next hour many riders tried, and some succeeded in bridging to the front group while at the same time the very familiar figure of Gordon McCauley attacked off the front.
With McCauley at the 70km mark was Daniel Barry (PureBlack Racing) and Jeremy Yates (Share the Road).
26 seconds behind them were; Marc Ryan, Jeremy Vennell, Jason Allen (Calder Stewart), Chris Macic (Share the Road), Tim Gudsell, Glen Chadwick, Shem Rodger, Scott Lyttle (PureBlack Racing), Paul Odlin and Sam Horgan (Subway Pro Cycling), Joe Lewis (Kia Motors) , Clinton Avery and Patrick Bevin (Ascot Park Hotel), Andi Bajic (Southland Times), Mike Olheiser (Jackson Plumbing - Plumbing World), Dion Smith and Alex Ray (H&J Smith Outdoor World - Avanti Plus), Greg Taylor (Ultimo- Hudson Gavin Martin), Brad Evans (Olphert Contracting). The entire PowerNet team with their yellow jersey leader Josh Atkins were sitting on the front of this big group.
A third bunch was a further 1m54s behind.
Showing there is still some energy left in the peloton, Tim Rush (Olphert Contracting), Joseph Cooper (Mico-Protrain), Danny Pulbrook (Radio Sport) and Nick Jowsey (Ultimo-Hudson Gavin Martin) bridged to the yellow jersey group 10km later - they bridged across during the worst of the weather.
As they approached Gore for the first time, after 98km, the leading trio had a 1m13s lead. Yates then dropped his companions and took off on his own as he tried to make up time he lost earlier in the tour.
At the hill out of town, three riders broke free and the GC batle was on! Bajic, Bevin and Atkins left their teammates behind and battled it out man to man, Yates was back in the bunch.
Bevin took off solo, trying to gain the 1m09s he needed to steal back from Atkins to take the yellow jersey. He followed at first, but Atkins soon moved back to the peloton leaving Bevin alone at the front of the race.
"In the cross winds me and him and another guy were away, but the other rider wasn't doing me any favours, and Paddy got away," said Atkins.
"I don't think it was the smartest thing to do, and I had my team back in the bunch and I just sat up and took a breather and knew the race was going to be on further down the road too."
Atkins' PowerNet team were up for the task and once again they got on the front, but it was PureBlack Racing who made the next move once the crosswinds hit. They led the chase charge with Atkins, Ryan and Macic joining in and they soon caught Bevin.
While travelling at 60km an hour in a tailwind with 25km to go, Gudsell found another gear and took off. His lead kept extending despite the best efforts of the Bevin, Atkins and Macic.
"I waited and waited and thought it was almost too late, but the boys set it up perfectly in the cross winds, and we isolated the yellow jersey," explained Gudsell. "That was the game plan, and from then on in it was just if I had the legs to gain as much time as I could to the finish."
Gudsell, who reached 98km/h on the descent into town according to one of the moto commissaires, crossed the finish line with a huge 1m06s lead over the chasers and moved his way into 2nd on the General Classification.
He said his legs are knackered, but with help from the support staff, Gudsell expects to be ready for more action in tomorrow's final two stages - a 12.8km time trial and 80km road stage. He is 1m05m down on Atkins.
"It's not over until the fat lady sings, we will give it a crack. I know Josh can time trial well, so tomorrow will be a good race."
None of the jerseys changed hands today, but PureBlack Racing's top performance moved them into a massive 18min lead in the Teams Classification.
PowerNet Tour of Southland - Sun Oct 30th to Sat Nov 5th
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