Zenovich (Placemakers) won a three man sprint up the main street of Lumsden to claim victory in the 170km stage from Invercargill, and ride his way into the yellow jersey.
It’s the first time a Southlander has won a stage in New Zealand’s most prestigious bike race since Zenovich won in Te Anau in 2013, and the first time a Southlander has worn yellow since Cam Karwowski the same year.
And it was a deserved victory after Zenovich had worked hard all day to drive the break and to put himself into a position to contest the final furious sprint.
“At the start, the team plan was just to relax because this is the longest stage of the tour and there’s a lot of long days to come, but me being me, I got a little bit excited and got into a breakaway about 50km in,” Zenovich said.
“I seized my opportunity with about 10km to go, didn’t get much help into the finish and I don’t have any idea how I managed to finish it off, but I’m happy about it.”
A Southlander hasn’t won the tour since Doug Bath managed the feat in 1994, while Zenovich’s stage win is just the second by a local since 2003.
“I know it’s a long straight from that last corner and it looks a lot shorter than it actually is. I’ve been trying to win this stage for four years and I always manage to muck it up. I just waited, I was patient and I managed to pull it off,” he said.
“I said before the stage yesterday that it was time for another Southlander to win a stage and I’m stoked it’s me, which is a bit selfish. Wearing yellow is like the icing on the cake, it just makes it that much sweeter.”
Zenovich was part of a four-man breakaway which had grown to a dozen by Nightcaps and included fellow Southlanders Corbin Strong and Josh Haggerty, with a lead approaching six minutes.
Efforts by the peloton to shut down the attack were hampered when they took a wrong turn after Nightcaps.
Oliver Martin was second on the stage, with United States rider Kevin Girkins (Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel) third and winner of the Most Combative honours, with Ethan Batt (WPC South-Joyride Apparel) leading the King of the Mountain standings.
Zenovich holds a slim 6sec lead over Martin, with Girkins 22sec in arrears.
Ollie Jones (PowerNet) leads the Sprint Ace standings, with team-mate Connor Brown the leading under 23 rider and Paul Odlin the best of the over 35 riders.
WPC South-Joyride Apparel leads the teams classification.
Stage 2 takes the riders 150km from Riverton along the southern coast and takes in the Blackmount hill climb before finishing on the Te Anau lakefront about 2pm.