• Avanti IsoWhey enjoyed a one, two GC finish in the NZ Cycle Classic. Mark O'Brien (Australia) left and overall Tour Winner Ben O'Connor celebrate following the fifth and final stage in Masterton. (Dave Lintott / lintottphoto.co.nz) (lintottphoto.co.nz)Source: lintottphoto.co.nz
Australia's Ben O'Connor (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) took his first UCI title with an impressive display in the five stage NZ Cycle Classic.
By
Cycling Central

25 Jan 2016 - 5:57 PM 

O'Connor pulled on the yellow jersey in the UCI 2.2 race at its conclusion in Wairapa, New Zealand yesterday, crossing the line in 15:52:54, 31 seconds ahead of team-mate Mark O'Brien. English rider Stephen Williams (JLT Condor) rounded out the podium.

“It’s unbelievable. I am super relieved to get through today and the Avanti one, two – we couldn’t have done any better, I am super happy,” O'Connor said.

O'Connor first claimed the yellow and under 23 rider's jerseys on Saturday's difficult 152km stage where his Avanti IsoWhey Sports team-mates helped him over eight hilly climbs including Admiral Hill, 495m above sea level. The win on Stage 4 was eventful for O'Connor. 

"I was with Mark (O'Brien) on the base (of the final climb) and I passed him, and then was with Michael Torckler (Trust House Team) but with 4km to go I gave it a big heave and rode to the top. I had a little mechanical mishap when my seat post snapped with 3km to go and I was out of my saddle. I didn’t know whether to change bikes or not, but there was only 1km to go so I just copped it and rode to the top," he said.

With GC points still up for grabs on the final stage, it was no procession.

"(The other teams) threw everything at us. It was unbelievably tough. There was a little bit of cross wind today and short punchy climbs out there and it left us isolated. The first half, the boys rode brilliantly and then we went to get some bottles and there were some cheeky moves made, which left the boys out, and left me and Mark to try and nurse her home," he said.

"You’re kind of hoping for an easy (final) day where it’s all nice and controlled and have a team bunch sprint but that didn’t happen at all today. That’s bike racing, that’s what makes it such a great sport," he said.

The 122km final stage was won by Australia's Mike Cuming (State of Matter/MAAP) who attacked off a breakaway with 10km to go, crossing the line seven seconds ahead of New Zealander road cycling champion Jason Christie (Kenyan Riders Downunder Australia) and team-mate Jesse Kerrison.

Cuming knew he had the stage won with 1km to go.

“I looked around over my shoulder and knew there was a bit of distance there, so just went for it,” he said.

O'Connor's win follows a bronze medal in the under 23 time trial at the 2016 MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships and a strong early summer season for the Avanti IsoWhey Sports team. The same can be said for the State of Matter/MAAP team who claimed the overall team classification.

Australia's Dylan Newberry (Data #3) won the Fagan Motors Sprint Ace jersey, two points ahead of Cuming and Kiwi Ryan Christensen (Oliver's Real Food) claimed the Mitre 10 Mega King of the Mountain Jersey.

For full results and reports visit New Zealand Cycle Classic