Cycling: Flying Evans over the moon

Tour of Southland winner Brad Evans reflects on his victory in Dunedin yesterday. Evans became...
Tour of Southland winner Brad Evans reflects on his victory in Dunedin yesterday. Evans became just the third Otago based rider to win the race. Photo by Adrian Seconi.
Brad Evans had to make an epic journey from China to Invercargill in three days to make the start of the Tour of Southland.

The rest of the field will be wishing he had missed just one of his five connecting flights because the 23 year old Dunedin lad turned his dream into a reality by winning the tour.

He set up the victory with a ''storming'' ride up Bluff Hill on Tuesday.

He stuck tightly to Australian Robbie Hucker's wheel all the way up Coronet Peak on Thursday and ''smashed'' the individual time trial on Saturday to extend his lead before cruising into Invercargill later that day knowing a place at the top of the podium awaited.

Evans became just the third Otago based rider to win the tour after inaugural winner Kelvin Hastie in 1956 and Gordon McCauley (1996).

''I'm just super proud really,'' Evans told the Otago Daily Times.

''I've grown up following this race ever since I took up competitive cycling when I was 11 years old.

''My father rides and races and my grandfather was a cyclist, so I'm actually a third generation cyclist.

''This race is the biggest race and has huge historical significance. I'm the third winner from Otago and certainly very proud to achieve that.

''I'm over the moon and still can't believe it, really.''

Making the start line was a race in itself, Evans said. He competed in the Tour of Hainan in China late last month and could not afford any delays in his travel plans.

''It was tight. I had to make every flight on time or I'd pretty much miss the race.''

Evans finished the Tour of Hainan on Wednesday and left China the following day. He caught five flights before arriving in Invercargill at lunch time on Saturday.

Evans started the final day of the tour with a 14sec advantage over Hucker but stretched that lead by almost a minute with a fine time trial, finishing in fifth place.

''We set off in one minute gaps and I could see [Hucker] up ahead,'' Evans said.

''I had good legs and got into my workload and started chasing him down and kept the pressure on, really. In the end he finished 3sec ahead of me, so I taken 57sec out of him. It was a huge psychological blow''With a good buffer in place, Evans was basically able to sit up and enjoy the final stage from Winton to Invercargill.

There were races within the race with riders jostling for the minor placings and the different jerseys.

Avanti Racing Team's Tom Davison won the final sprint in Gala St ahead of George Atkins and Alex Frame, with Evans placing fifth and defending his 1min 11sec lead.

Hucker, who helped Evans when he won the Tour of Tasmania last month, had to settle for second place, with 2012 winner Mike Northey in third place, trailing by 3min 27sec.

''We've been defending the jersey since Tuesday and teams aren't usually able to hang on, so I'm so thankful to all my team mates for all their hard work and really happy to finish it off,'' Evans said.

Joseph Cooper won the time trial from national time trial champion Michael Vink and also claimed the King of the Mountains jersey. His Avanti team came from a long way back to win the team's classification for a second consecutive year.

Fraser Gough overtook Mosgiel's Joe Chapman to win the sprint ace jersey. But Chapman's team mate, Liam Aitcheson, won the under 23 jersey after Nick Bain suffered a crash during the individual time trial and had to run the last 200m of the stage.

Brent Allnut confirmed his victory in the silver jersey for riders 40 years and over.

 

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