Morgan Smith secures victory in stage 2 of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland, photo James Jubb/Studio Jubb

Morgan Smith ended day 3 of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland ‘cooked’ but happy.  Riding his seventh consecutive Tour of Southland, this time in the guise of Aardvark Excavators Ltd, Smith held on to win stage 3 to Te Anau in style.

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Morgan Smith rises above conditions in Southland stage 2

It was a brilliant day for Smith and his teammates, with Smith making the most of classic Southland conditions to take the win in a little over 3 hours.  Not only that but with Jensen Plowright third, Dan Cross 7th and Nick White 9th the team put four riders in the top ten on the stage that saw nine riders drop out over the course of the day.  

“Mate I am cooked! It was a tough day out from the very start,” Morgan told RoadCycling afterwards.

Like Matt Zenovich in Lumsden, the Te Anau stage had been one that Morgan had targeted for some time.  “Yeah the stage suits me pretty well. It’s hard enough to get rid of some of the pure sprinters and I can get over the hill.  I’ve gone well here in the past so I always look forward to it,” he said.

The day provided just about everything over the course of the day, with hail, crosswinds, rain and finally a little sunshine at the end.  The volatile conditions made for aggressive racing that many teams were eager to take full advantage of.  “First of we had that 50km along the coast and most of the big teams had the same idea to drive it in the gutter. From then on the race took its toll and kept splitting.  Aardvark managed to have the whole team in the front splits most of the day. I slipped off the front heading to Blackmount and Tom Hubbard and Brad Evans came with me with the same thinking; to get over the climb at the front so if the climbers whacked it we were there. 

I was patient and waited till they got close then went again.”

After disposing of Hubbard and Evans as the kilometres ticked by, Smith was then joined by Adair Craik Accountants’ Blake Sunde until 5km to go where Smith decided to go for broke solo.  “Blake Sunde came across to me and he was stomping. We drifted back out to a minute taking the turn at Manapouri into a tail wind and by then I knew we could get close. From then on I just kind of coached him through to about the 5km mark and knew it was where I needed to go.  From then on just sent it and finally got a win.”

This year’s Tour of Southland now looks quite different for Smith.  Last year it took all the way until the final stage for he and the team to get their stage win, but now the pressure has released a little.  “It’s a big result getting a stage win so early. Last year we had to wait until the last stage. It picks the boys up ahead of some hard days,” Morgan explained.  “Pressure off myself more than anything. Yesterday I was in the move but hard nothing so to get up for the boys today was awesome.”

As today’s stage heads for Coronet Peak and then tomorrow’s stage to Bluff Hill expect Morgan Smith to resume domestique duties for Aardvark Excavators Ltd as the climbers take over.  Racing kicks off at 10.30am and is expected to finish around 3pm.

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