James Piccoli may not be in an ideal position to launch another assault on the yellow jersey, but he bounced back like a true champion in stage 4 of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland to take his second consecutive win on Bluff Hill.
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Last year it was Michael Torckler’s turn to go back-to-back with summit finish wins as he took his second consecutive win atop Coronet Peak. This time the KIA Motors-Ascot Park Hotel duo of James Piccoli and Hamish Bond turned on the style to win on Bluff Hill and ever so slightly close the gap to race leader Michael Vink of WPC South-Joyride Apparel. But going back-to-back on the climb was much easier said than done for the Canadian.
“Going back to back on Bluff this year was tricky just because of how different the conditions were this year with the crosswinds and rain. It was a much different race but the team’s numbers at the end played to our advantage. Our plan in general is to make the race hard and attack to try and shake things up.”
In the end Piccoli, Bond and Ryan Christensen all finished in the top six on the stage, and put a number of GC challengers in the gutter. Sam Gaze of PowerNet crossed the line 8th at 1.58mins, former yellow jersey Matt Zenovich of Placemakers was 10th at 2.49mins with time gaps opening wider and wider and resembling more like an Alpine Tour de France stage results sheet.
More impressive is the fact that Piccoli’s win came just a day after a particularly nasty crash that saw him lose valuable time to Michael Vink and co at the foot of Coronet Peak. Some were impressed with the fact that the Canadian simply remounted and made it to the start line for yesterday’s stage.
“I have some scrapes and bruises but I’ll be fine. I have some bandages that I like to use and a clean up routine that can speed up healing time.. but luckily my cuts are pretty superficial so they’ll heal quickly. Once the race was on I was concentrated on doing my job for the team,” Piccoli told us.
Piccoli now sits 4th overall at 3.24mins, with Ryan Christensen 5th at 5.02mins and Hamish Bond 2nd at 1.32mins. The squad have a strong hold on the team classification; leading by 6.38mins to WPC South-Joyride Apparel. But the fight for yellow is not over yet, Michael Vink knows that; and expect aggression from KIA Motors-Ascot Park Hotel as we head into stage 5 and the gallop towards the race’s end.
“From this point out obviously the team’s goal is to win GC. I don’t want to give too much away but we’ll have some plans on trying to make that happen!”
Stage 5 from Invercargill to Gore will take the field 151km over a stage that historically has been the scene of the winning moves in GC battles past. Racing begins at 10am and is expected to end at 2pm.