The 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland’s first Mexican rider has made an emphatic statement at the midway point of this year’s race.
Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel rider Eder Frayre holds a 28sec lead over Southland’s Corbin Strong, with defending champion Michael Vink trailing by 33sec after today’s Queen stage, the 138km beat from Mossburn to the top of Coronet Peak, near Queenstown.
Frayre launched a withering attack on the arduous 9km climb to the Coronet skifield, the rest of the peloton powerless to stop him as Christchurch’s Jake Marryatt crossed the line second and Strong headed home Vink for third place.
Frayre arrived in Southland on the recommendation of 2009 Tour of Southland winner Heath Blackgrove, who has been his team director for the past couple of years.
“It was beautiful today, but every stage has been beautiful, I love this country, New Zealand,” Frayre said.
The Coronet Peak stage was one Frayre had been looking forward to, and had discussed extensively with Blackgrove.
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“When they invited me here to race I looked at the stage profiles and when I arrived last week my team brought me here to see what it was like. I knew it could be a good day for me. I knew I had to attack early, because I like to do that on the climbs.”
Benign conditions made it difficult for any breaks of note to develop through the first half of today’s stage as the race travelled through northern Southland and towards Lake Wakatipu.
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A group led by national road champion James Fouche (Creation Signs-Ronald McDonald House-Ricoh), who would win the Most Combative jersey for the stage, eventually managed to find some freedom around the Devil’s Staircase and into the shadow of the Remarkables, edging out past five minutes at one point.
Some ill-timed crashes made it harder for teams to organise their reply and it was Christchurch’s Max Jones (Base Solutions Racing-WCNI) who gapped the field and started the climb alone.
However, Frayre would come through and make no race of the climb, shaking up the general classification standings in the process.
The winner will now likely come from the top three of Frayre, Strong (Team Skoda Fruzio) and Vink (Placemakers), who has been on the podium for the past three years.
Last night Frayre was eyeing stage four, which often includes another helping of crosswinds before the other iconic climb of the Southland tour, Bluff Hill.
“People here love to race in the crosswinds and making it hard. I have a very strong team and good staff. If my teammates work for me really good then I think I can do it, for sure,” he said.
“I didn’t know I’d be the first Latin here when I first came, but I’m so proud because it’s nice to be the first and it’s a long way to travel.”
Strong’s excellent climb earned him the John Vercoe Memorial trophy for the first Southlander up Coronet Peak for the second year in a row, as well as a big lead in the under 23 classification.
Paul Odlin (PowerNet) bolstered his advantage in the over 35s Silver jersey and his teammate Ollie Jones has a narrow lead in the Sprint Ace classification, with Ioan Fuller (Petrotec-Blackmax) holding off challengers for the King of the Mountains jersey.
Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel lead the teams classification.
The 157km fourth stage of the 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland starts in Invercargill at 10am and finishes at Bluff Hill at about 2.15pm.
The 63rd edition of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland finishes in Invercargill on Saturday.