So we enter stage 3 of the New Zealand Cycle Classic with the Admiral Hill stage having gone the way of Sam Crome, but the yellow jersey battle going the way of the New Zealand National Team; and specifically James Oram. Del Woodford discussed what it would take for Team NZ to go on and win the 30th New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Traditionally the winner of the New Zealand Cycle Classic seems to be found on the Admiral Hill stage of the race. That stage is usually towards the end of the race, but this time Jorge Sandoval made the decision to shake things up a bit. The Admiral Hill stage of the race became stage 2 of this year’s race and also saw a shortened climb of Admiral Hill. Instead of going all the way up the climb the climb was brought back to potentially provide more of a GC race for the upcoming four stages of the tour.
The outcome of that move is that now with four stages remaining the top three on GC are separated by just 12 seconds. James Oram, Sam Crome and Steve Lampier appear to be the ones to beat at this stage; although there is another group of riders in the 30-60 second bracket. Timothy Roe – who wore yellow after the first stage – Michael Torckler, Hayden McCormick, Brad Evans, Alex West, Logan Griffin and Joseph Cooper are all in that time gap and well within striking distance should things go their way. But of course the thing to remember is that they won’t have the Admiral Hill stage to look ahead to now.
As far as Del Woodford is concerned though, though the race may be wide open Team NZ are in a strong position; and it’s partly down to their strength in numbers. “I think they’re in a pretty strong space,” Del told RoadCycling. “They’ve got Brad Evans, now [today’s] stage is a pretty good stage for Brad; he’s a good sprinter, but I think he could definitely win a stage over the next couple of days without too much problem. He’s also the kind of rider who can get into the right sort of break, he’s a very intelligent rider so he could go a way.”
But the options stretch further than Oram and Evans, with Hayden McCormick too sitting 6th overall at just 36 seconds back. “Hayden McCormick hasn’t been riding his usual aggressive self,” Del said. “Or he’s had to ride super hard for his teammates. I think he’s got pretty good legs and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a crack – maybe not [today] – but certainly in stages 4 and 5 I think you’ll see McCormick go on the attack.”
Despite leading overall and possibly facing the temptation to now go on the defensive, James Oram announced last night that they would still look to be aggressive and potentially seek out that stage win to further bolster what’s looking like a successful tour so far. “Oram’s right, they’ve got a lot of cards to play and I don’t think any of them will be a detriment,” Del continued. “The key to this race is putting someone in every break, and the way Team New Zealand are riding, they have high enough riders on the GC to send someone away and be there; whether it’s Oram, McCormick, Brad Evans. Three good cards to play and they’ve got great support.”
There is plenty left to be revealed in this year’s New Zealand Cycle Classic, and another few chapters still to be written of this year’s race; but at this stage it’s advantage the boys in black (and yellow in James’ case).