Mexcican rider Eder Frayre has produced a second impressive climbing performance as the 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland’s yellow jersey settles a little more securely onto his shoulders following victory in stage 4.
The Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel rider scored his second stage win in as many days, backing up from Wednesday’s victory on Coronet Peak with a solid win on Bluff Hill.
He’s now banked the twin peaks and put himself in prime position to become just the fifth overseas rider in 63 years to win New Zealand’s most prestigious cycling race.
“It was a long stage and the wind in the front made for a difficult race,” Frayre said.
“We had a race plan, my team worked on the front all day and did a really good job. We started the climb in the best spot possible again and we won, so we are so happy.”
Frayre had two practice climbs on Bluff Hill last week, but that hadn’t really prepared him for the intensity of one of New Zealand cycling’s iconic stages.
“I arrived here a week ago, so I did it one time easy and then I decided to come another day and do it harder because that’s totally different. Today it was really hard.”
It was another outstanding day for Southland’s Corbin Strong, who followed up his third placing on Coronet with second today; defending champion Michael Vink having to settle for third place.
Strong (Team Skoda Fruzio) leads the under 23 classification by more than three minutes.
Frayre now leads Strong by 35sec, with Vink trailing by 47sec. It’s a long way back to fourth-placed Alex Heaney at nearly three minutes.
With a strong squad around him, questions are already being asked about whether Saturday’s individual time trial may be the best opportunity to find a chink in the Mexican’s armour.
Tomorrow’s 151km stage from Invercargill to Gore does promise a little more wind to challenge the riders, but it’s nothing like the crosswinds which can wreak havoc on that stage.
“We will try to stay on the front, stay focused. We have good legs and we’ll try to do our best,” Frayre said.
A breakaway of Southland’s Tom Sexton (Business South), Henry Levett (Creation Signs-Ronald McDonald House-Ricoh), George Jackson (ITM), Madi Hartley-Brown (Coupland’s Bakeries) and Paul Wright (Central Benchmakers-Willbike) escaped as the race headed east and south, gaining more than four minutes of freedom as the peloton enjoyed another day of relatively benign conditions.
Sexton hogged the sprints until he’d forced himself into the lead in the Sprint Ace classification, dropping back to the peloton at about the 110km mark.
With Bluff Hill rising up in the distance, the peloton started to edge up over 40kmh and Wright, who would be rewarded with the Most Combative rider jersey, was the last rider to be caught, with 3km left to ride.
As a big bunch attacked the climb, it was the race’s leading trio who shuffled their way to the front and eventually formed the podium.
Ioan Fuller (Petrotec-Blackmax) continues to lead the King of the Mountain standings, with Paul Odlin (PowerNet) still holding off Glenn Haden (Coupland’s Bakeries) for the over 35 Silver jersey honours.
|1||Eder FRAYRE Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel||3:44:07 (42.03 km/h)|
|2||Corbin STRONG Team Skoda Fruzio||00:03|
|3||Michael VINK Placemakers||00:08|
|4||Alex HEANEY Powernet||00:23|
|5||Sam FOX Petrotec-Blackmax||00:26|
|6||Ben OLIVER Central Benchmakers-Willbike||ST|
|7||Campbell STEWART Base Solutions Racing-WCNI||00:39|
|8||Campbell PITHIE ITM||00:43|
|9||Theo GILBERTSON Creation Signs-Ronald McDonald House-Ricoh||00:48|
|10||Reuben THOMPSON Team Skoda Fruzio||00:53|