Cycling: Vink beats high-class opponents on Taieri

Michael VinkIn a race that went down to the wire, pro rider Michael Vink showed his class to win the 250km, five-stage Tour de Taieri, from a star-studded field in near perfect conditions yesterday afternoon.

Vink was a deserving winner, from a classy field of nearly 30 others, including a host of professional and up-and-coming junior riders. Vink rode strongly throughout every stage, including the second, in which he and local strongman Mark Spessot made the big move of the tour, blowing the field apart in a gruelling crosswind section. This move effectively left seven riders in contention for the overall honours.

Brad Evans, James McCoy and Tim Rush, made an effort to steal the show on the final stage, and did take line honours, but Vink showed a cool head and kept the breakaway from gaining enough time to threaten his overall lead.

In the end Vink won, 5sec ahead of Dan Barry and 24sec ahead of Brad Evans.

With sunny and calm conditions for most of the five stages, the racing was fast and close in almost all of the 10 categories contested among 130 riders. Only a series of crashes, including a high speed pile-up (which included Evans) in category one, marred the event.

In category 2, Stu Crooks hit the lead after an impressive time trial, and then showed powerful sprinting to increase his overall margin as the tour went on. Pre-race favourite Chris Harvey had to settle for second, ahead of Southland sprint master Jerrard Stock, who led the race early on, after winning the stage one and two.

Patrick Jones rode a splendid race, winning the under-19 title, and by taking fifth place overall, he signalled he could be a force to reckoned with in the senior ranks in coming years.

The under-17 boys was won by Liam Aitkenson, by the slimmest of margins from Joshua Haggerty. Lachie McGregor continued his run of form, taking the under-15 title comfortably.

The women's race was closely fought, with Kylie Young eventually winning from speedster Kat Jones by 24sec. Corrinne Smit rode strongly for third and made several solo breakaway attempts in the final two stages.

Kaylee Murdoch won the under-19 women's title, from Julia Gorninsky and Mountain biking convert Mary Gray. Robin Packer-Gray dominated the under-17 women's field. First timers, a new category, saw Corbin Strong turn on impressive speed to win from Roman Fergusson.