Words by Ben Marshall
This article was originally published by Today’s Plan
It turns out Stage 3 was just the start of the five-star quality weather, with a maximum of 19 degrees and sunshine all day for stage 4. With a slight tail wind for the 140 km stage from Mossburn to the top of Coronet Peak just outside of Queenstown, it proved to be a reasonably quick ride to the base of the 8 km climb. Once again we were keen to be represented in the early moves to remove any pressure for us to have to do any work on the front of the peloton but more importantly to have someone ahead up the climb to assist Ryan Christensen, our U/23 classification contender.
The plan was working according to plan as we were represented in all the moves until finally a group of 4 was let go with our man, Nick Reddish chopping off to get in the group of 4. However, shortly after Nick rode off the front Ryan derailleur exploded just riding along (JRA) and a bike change was in order. Fortunately, our guest rider for the tour Ben Earnshaw handed his bike over to Ryan, while he waited for the guys to unload the spare bike from the team car and set it up. Then thanks to some smooth on the go mechanical work by team manager Big Al, Ben was back on a new bike and making his way back to the bunch. Next up was Ryan and to adjust his seat height so it was suited to him. This was all in the first hour and made for a tense start to the stage for all involved. From then until the base of the climb it was relatively uneventful.
With Ryan delivered in good position, it was now up to him to deliver the goods. He was in the front group of 10 until half way up the climb where it begin to splinter as the toll of three hard days of racing combined with the strain of the climb began to take its toll. Ryan finished 9th on the stage and moved up to 10th overall on the general classification. He still remains in 4th in the U/23 classification that is now lead by Liam Aitcheson after he took the stage win today 19 seconds ahead of Michael Vink.
It’s been a pretty solid tour, and as the bunch becomes more and more fatigued the opportunities will continue to appear. The major climb for the tour is done but the race is definitely not over yet.