JLT Condor’s Ian Bibby overcame sweltering temperatures, a challenging hill course and an attack by the New Zealand national team to claim stage four of the New Zealand Cycle Classic in the Wairarapa today. Bibby finished ahead of Robert Stannard of Team Skoda Racing who became the new overall race leader.
Bibby, who is from Preston in England, won the 152km hilly route that featured more than five substantial hill climbs including a 9km slog up Admiral Hill in Gladstone. Bibby crossed the line in 4hours 8mins 09seconds while Team Skoda Racing’s Robert Stannard was second and Australian Cycling Academy’s Michael Potter third. New Zealand riders Hayden McCormick, Michael Torckler, James Oram finished 4th, 5th and 6th respectively while Kiwi Michael Vink, racing for team Brisbane Continental, crossed the finish line in 7th.
Race director Jorge Sandoval said in all the years he had run this event in the Wairarapa, he’d never had a large bunch of riders enter the base of Admiral Hill and then still have 10 riders cross the finish line in a sprint finish.
“Wow! Today was amazing and reflects the quality of the field. I’ve never seen the rider formations like I did today. Usually there is one or two or three riders at the bottom of the hill and then a similar formation at the top, so it was really, really exciting,” said Sandoval.
Bibby, whose team mate Matthew Gibson won yesterday’s stage 3, echoed Sandoval’s sentiments and praised all the riders in action today. “After yesterday’s (stage win) our team was on a high and after we knew we didn’t have a chance to win the GC, we aimed for the stage wins. We’ve had two in a row now and are just really happy,” said Bibby.
“Today’s race was hard. The climb before Admiral Hill was super tough. It was really steep and then when we went into Admiral we had a huge fight to climb up and tried really hard to split the group. We did that but kept being attacked [by] the New Zealand team. We just worked hard to try and hold on and we did – just. Everyone just rode so well, not just my teammates, but everyone.”
Robert Stannard becomes new Tour leader
The yellow jersey changed hands in the New Zealand Cycle Classic today with Team Skoda Racing’s Robert Stannard being awarded the tour leader’s jersey from Kiwi Nick Reddish (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), who had worn it the last three days.
Nineteen year old Stannard is a guest rider for Kiwi based Team Skoda Racing; the team he’d raced for prior to moving abroad. He was born in Sydney and lived there until he was 4, before the family came to New Zealand where he was based in the Manawatu. He is now based in Australia and races for Mitchelton Bike Exchange.
After Stannard finished today’s stage four in second place he gained enough time to catapult him to the top of the general classification. He now sits ahead of New Zealand National Tea, rider Hayden McCormick and third placed Vink. Stannard, who also picked up the U23 jersey today, is familiar with Admiral Hill having won many club races staged there in the past.
Also being awarded on the podium today were JLT’s Matthew Gibson for the Most Aggressive rider of the day and Mobius BridgeLane’s Dylan Newbery who retained the King of the Mountain jersey, despite nursing a sore wrist after being caught up in a crash at 15km. Points Competition leader is ACA’s Michael Potter.
How stage 4 happened
Today’s Queen Stage of the New Zealand Cycle Classic quickly became a battle of attrition as cyclists battled temperatures over 30 degrees, strong nor west winds and a hilly course. There were also three crashes, which resulted in three riders abandoning the race (two with injury and one with a broken bike).
The race began in Masterton and within 15km the first crash occurred, which saw a big bunch of riders go down including Oliver’s Real Food Racing’s Nick Reddish in the yellow jersey. After he rejoined the peleton, a group of six riders including JLT’s Matthew Gibson, Oliver’s Jack Sutton, GPM’s Tasman Nankervis, Mobius BridgeLane’s Peter Livingstone, Team Skoda Racing’s Bradley Leitch and Frezzor’s Jason Thomason made a breakaway and held a 2min lead over the peloton until 88km, when Nankervis rejoined the main group.
The five rider breakaway rode well together with each taking turns, but Gibson in particular drove the group forward. With 30km to go to the finish line and the gap closing, Gibson and Livingstone made an attack up Te Wharau hill, known locally as “the wall”. At the top of the long, steep climb the peloton began to reform and by the time they descended and arrived at the base of Admiral Hill things had changed. A group of around 12 riders followed by a second group began to ascend the 9km slog and were travelling at pace.
With members of the NZ National team, JLT, ACA and Brisbane all making attacks on the way up, the large group eventually whittled down to about 10 riders who were forced to sprint the last 500m.
Sandoval said it was an “amazing thing to see” and congratulated all riders involved. He said it would be interesting to see how tomorrow’s fifth and final stage unfolds. The 120km stage involves 12 laps of a 10km circuit on beginning at Mitre 10 Mega in Ngaumutawa Road in Masterton.