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Strong, riding in his third Southland tour, punched his way off the front of a bunch sprint to win the stage into picturesque Te Anau under a stunning blue sky.
"I’ve followed this tour for as long as I can remember, being a young Southlander growing up and sitting outside of school watching the tour go by Otatara primary school and then sitting in the vans before I was old enough to do it," Strong said.
"It’s been a long time coming. I’ve had a lot of near misses in this tour already in the last two years, so to pull it off was a great feeling and one I’ll remember for a long time.
"We went in with a good plan for today, all the PowerNet boys were committed and I owe them a lot — it was an awesome team effort and we are riding awesome as a team together, and hopefully there’s a few more wins to come this week.
"There wasn’t much wind but it was still a hard day. There were a lot of attacks going in and it was quite aggressive racing, which was nice. It hasn’t been as hard a start to the tour this year, but that just means that when it does get hard it’s going to be that much more exciting."
Gate crossed the finish line in the main bunch to retain the lead for a second day, surviving a scary moment when he was edged towards the barriers and dropped his chain over a speed bump near the line.
He leads team mate and fellow former Southland winner James Oram by 6sec, with Tom Sexton third at 9sec and Strong fourth at 15sec.
Defending champion Michael Vink is in ninth place, 19sec behind.
The tour heads into uncharted territory today with a 6km climb up the Remarkables access road on the end of a 111km stage starting in Mossburn.