Has Michael Vink finally done enough to win the Tour of Southland? The race that has eluded him in terms of GC victory is once again his to lose after a scintillating display on the climb of Coronet Peak that sees him enjoy a lead of over a minute back to his nearest rivals.
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If there’s anything we’ve learned when watching the Tour of Southland it’s that no lead is truly safe; and this will be something that Michael Vink of WPC South-Joyride Apparel knows all too well. However, there’s an intent in his tone and a strong self-awareness that leads one to believe that maybe this year he will finally take that one step up on GC and remain in the yellow jersey by race’s end.
“The pain of losing yellow two years is still fresh and there is just no way I’m going to let that happen again,” Vink told RoadCycling.
Vink’s display on the climb of Coronet Peak was superb, and saw him put significant time into Commonwealth Games MTB champion Sam Gaze and Commonwealth Games medallist Hamish Bond. Vink now enjoys the distinction of being among the riders to have won on both major climbing days of the Tour of Southland, and as he explained, winning on Coronet Peak is a whole different beast.
“Coronet is different because it’s a pure climbers stage. The run in is pretty straightforward and it’s basically a TT to the top. Bluff Hill is usually won much earlier in the stage, as it’s always windy and often wet. Staying at the front and saving energy is what makes the difference up Bluff,” Vink said.
“I knew I was feeling good right away when we hit the climb, but I also knew there was quite a strong headwind. I wanted the climb to be hard as I felt good, so I tried to get away as soon as possible so I wouldn’t be towing anyone up for any longer than I had to.
“It definitely wasn’t the fastest way up the climb, but I would have been happy just to get the stage as I feel the TT later in the week is a big plus for me. To get the win and put time into everyone was just the best possible outcome. I’m just really sorry for James and KIA Motors-Ascot Park Hotel, they deserved a lot more today, but they will bounce back.”
Piccoli was unfortunate to crash hard on the right hander leading into the climb. Although managing to remount and continue on, Piccoli arrived home 14th on the stage behind teammate Ryan Christensen; 3.20mins behind Vink.
Today’s stage to Bluff Hill is one that Vink will doubtless approach with confidence, having won here back in 2016, and being on the same team as a certain Brad Evans who did exactly the same thing the year before. Having Brad alongside him is a massive aide to Vink, who knows that the race will not just be won on the climb but also in the 140km preceding it.
“This year having Brad as road captain has been a big weight off my shoulders. We also have six really strong riders here, which we showed in the TTT by finishing second with all six of our guys at the finish,” Vink said.
Stage 4 from the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome to Bluff Hill kicks off at 10am this morning and will finishing at approximately 2.15pm after 148.5km.