Australian pair take over lead

The lead has changed hands again in the Pioneer race in Central Otago.

A fascinating duel between defending champions Michael Vink and Tim Rush and Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams took another twist on stage two of the race on the longest day, the Queen Stage in Alexandra yesterday.

Australians Johnston and Odams wrested control of the race back off the New Zealanders with a superb ride, winning the stage by just over 3min to move 37sec clear of Vink and Rush on general classification. Ryan Sissons and Sam Osborne moved to third.

The Australians were just too strong yesterday in conditions that defied the forecast, predicted rain and high winds almost completely absent from the 112km stage through the immediate surrounds of Alexandra in Central Otago.

‘‘Today we kind of had to take it to them pretty early. Our intention wasn’t to drop them but just to put the pressure on them on the bits that suited us which was probably the early single track,” Johnston said.

“But we just opened up a gap on the first climb and kind of went on with it and pushed on and broke the pack up and had five minutes at one point. From there we had to conserve until we got to the final climb which we were looking at all day.”

Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby continued their dominance of the women’s field, winning the stage in 5hr 35min 30sec, 39min ahead of 2017 champions Nina McVicar and Reta Trotman.

Mixed team Jo Skerman and Josie Wilcox overcame an early challenge from Australians Holly Harris and Michael Harris to win the stage and extend their lead to 18min over Kate Fluker and Mark Williams, of Queenstown.

The action moves to Bannockburn today.

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