In a photo finish sprint, JLT Condor’s Matthew Gibson won stage three of the UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic held in hot and sunny conditions in the Wairarapa today.  Gibson, from Great Britain, crossed the line in 2hrs 53mins 25secs while Australian Cycling Academy’s (ACA) Tobias Orchard was second, Brisbane Continental Team’s Ryan Thomas third; ACA’s Cameron Scott fourth and Swiss National team rider Thery Schir fifth. 

So close was the sprint that Gibson had to wait a few minutes before the judges could announce him as the stage winner, following a photo finish that concluded the 126km from Masterton to the wine village of Martinborough, including nine laps around a flat, fast 8.1km circuit.

“I obviously tried to keep relaxed and stay not too close during the first few laps and the boys in the team did a great job getting me to the front and keeping me in a good spot to sprint in, the last few hundred metres and take the win – I was pretty happy with that,” said Gibson.

The stage also concluded with Kiwi Nick Reddish, who is racing for Australian based Oliver’s Real Food Racing, retaining the yellow jersey; Mobius Future Racing’s Dylan Newbery retaining the King of the Mountain Jersey after his team mate Angus Lyons won today’s KOM while ACA’s Michael Potter was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider jersey.

Potter was part of a quartet of riders who made a breakaway at 40km and said at the finish line, this tactic was not in his original plans however he saw an opportunity and took it.  “We’ve come here, the whole Australian Cycling Academy to make a point and to show that our team can make a difference. And I think we showed that today,” said Potter.   “It was a really nice course and these finishing circuits are definitely a really good inclusion. I am going to hold on and see what can happen. I’ll give tomorrow another crack and make the most of it.”

The peloton make their way through stage 3 of the New Zealand Cycle Classic, photo Dave Lintott / lintottphoto.co.nz

Today’s race saw little movement until the 40km mark when Potter, Lyons, Swiss rider Cyrille Theiry and Team Frezzor Racing’s Kees Duyvesteyn made a breakaway. That lead was maintained until the group came into Martinborough but when Lyons endured a double puncture he was eventually swallowed up by the peloton which at that point were 2mins 36secs behind.

The remaining trio stayed together as they raced around the circuit with Potter winning the sprint stages and then attacking the breakaway. With under 10km to go, he eventually got swallowed up by the peloton resulting in a mass sprint for the finish line and an appreciative crowd who lined the town square in 27 degree temperatures.

During the prize giving which was given by Labour MP Kieran McAnulty, Reddish praised his teammates for protecting him and said they had all ridden “out of their skins”. He said he was still full of confidence heading into tomorrow’s “Queen Stage” which is a 150km hilly route featuring around five hill climbs including a 9km slog up Admiral Hill in Gladstone.

Race director Jorge Sandoval is predicting the race will be blown apart tomorrow.  “I think tomorrow’s general classification is going to be turned upside down with some of the riders we haven’t seen for the last few days featuring in the top four or five in the finish at Admiral Hill,” said Sandoval.  “Because tomorrow is a huge day – it’s predicted to be extremely hot for the riders and hilly, the strong ones will be there and because we’ve four former Tour winners here I think they will feature. The likes of Michael Vink, Robert Stannard, Joe Cooper and Michael Torckler probably could be leading riders.”

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