Aaron Gate celebrates winning stage 1 of the New Zealand Cycle Classic, photo John Dam

In their second UCI race of the 2019 season EvoPro Racing are absolutely flying.  Aaron Gate is the protagonist this time for the team, having won stage 1 of the Grassroots Trust New Zealand Cycle Classic.  We got to chat to him afterwards.

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Gate continues EvoPro’s winning form with Cycle Classic stage 1 win

Aaron’s first race in EvoPro Racing colours couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start.  A day in the break with Liam Magennis – who’d later drop back – and then to the line with Matt Zenovich.  The two were a formidable partnership together that stayed away to the line, where Gate’s track legs took him to the win.  

“It was a tough day out, you definitely can’t beat winning in your first race so I’m happy with that and now I’ll just have to try and see what the rest of the race holds,” Gate told RoadCycling.

Having been primarily focussed on the track through January, where he formed one half of the victorious Madison duo with Campbell Stewart at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Cambridge, attention now turns to life on the tar.  We asked Aaron how the legs were finding the transition from track to road.

“The main difference is being a bit fresher than normal because I’ve not been doing as many hours in the last couple of weeks than I would normally, and that seemed to work today and we’ll just have to hope that it does carry on through the rest of the tour as the fatigue starts to pile up,” Gate said.

Today’s stage, at 132km in length and starting in Cambridge, finishing in Leamington, was heavily influenced early on by the weather conditions and resulted in a couple of crashes before the breakaway of the day finally took off.  It seems that Gate’s inclusion in the move was almost a bit of a funny accident!

“It was a weird start to the stage today, a bit of wind which kept a lot people on edge today which was reflected in the number of crashes in the peloton today.  We had the rest of the team all chasing down moves early on, and then after the first intermediate sprint Matt Zenovich kicked off again and I rode over to him and Liam Magennis.  It was a bit of a joke at the start, Shane Archbold did a bit of a burner to try and spice up things in the bunch a little bit and I rode passed him and jokingly said, ‘I thought you were going to come with me!’ And then I looked over my shoulder and no one came with me so I thought I’d ride over to the two guys ahead of me and that was the break of three; and it stuck for the day,” Gate explained.  

“We had 5 minutes at one point and I thought ‘this might actually come together for us if we keep pressing on’ and I managed to stay away with Zeno to the line.”

Pound for pound EvoPro Racing have had a start to the season that most can only dream of.  Two wins from two races, and two more podium spots courtesy of Cyrus Monk at Gravel and Tar; and Wouter Wippert today.  It’s clear that something is going very, very right with the team.  Part of their early success seems to be the high energy expectations that team manager Morgan Fox has poured into the team’s first races.

“It’s a bit of a funny one,” Aaron explained.  “Morgan Fox is pretty keen to kick things off to a roaring start, and luckily we’ve been able to live up to those high expectations that he set all of us!  I think everyone’s quite motivated with this team too so everyone’s come into the year in quite good form and that’s been reflected in the results so we’ll try and keep it going.  The other half of the team is racing in Majorca in the coming weeks, racing over there too, so hopefully they can keep the winning ways going as the European season kicks off too.”

Aaron Gate continued EvoPro’s winning run of form with victory in stage 1 of the New Zealand Cycle Classic, photo provided

Going forward there are plenty of opportunities within such a diverse team, but Gate has his eyes on at least another day or two in yellow.  He has 5 seconds in hand over Matt Zenovich, 1.10mins over Wouter Wippert, 1.11mins over Stefan Bissegger and 1.14mins over Theodore Yates, Dylan Kennett, Hayden McCormick and co.  It’s a sizeable time gap but by no means insurmountable. 

“At the moment I’d like to keep having a crack at the GC, a minute lead can be a lot but it can also not be very much.  A lot can change when you’ve got such a mix of riders and such an interesting block of roads that we’re racing on in the next few days.  I know quite a few of the roads quite well from time training on them for the track; but they’re not very forgiving either.  It’s up and down all day for the next couple of days and then Saturday’s the dreaded Maungakawa stage which is where the yellow jersey will really be sewn up.  A lot can change in the lead into it, wind and rain is possibly on the forecast for tomorrow will always throw a little bit of spice into it,” Gate said.  

“We want to keep our options open, we’ve got so many cards to play, Wouter has shown that he’s got his sprint form so maybe there’ll be another stage for him, also Whitehouse and Mudgway and Cyrus could also be contenders for the overall too depending on how things go.  We’ve got plenty of options and it’s nice to sit in the hot seat at the moment, but we can’t be complacent because a lot can change.”

Stage 2 starts in Cambridge and races to Lake Karapiro on a journey that takes in 129km in total.  The race climbs its way up to Pukeatua, and then up again to Waotu.  A couple of short, sharp kicks up prelude the largely downhill final 10km so there are a range of scenarios that could decide tomorrow’s stage.

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