• Tour of the Tropics was more renowned for its torrential rain than sunshine, but presented an opportunity to show off the region (Getty)Source: Getty
Jay Vine (Team Nero Bianchi) proved to be the strongest rider at the new National Road Series (NRS) event, the Tour of the Tropics, as torrential rain assailed the riders in a near-constant barrage over the five stages.
SBS Cycling Central

6 Aug 2019 - 12:02 PM 

Nero-Bianchi got the Tour off to a perfect start with Sam Hill taking a solo breakaway victory, jumping away from a strong group that included team-mate Jay Vine with nine kilometres left to take the win by 52 seconds. 

This put Nero Bianchi in a strong position, with the top two riders on the general classification and only a few others in contention for the overall with large time gaps at the finish. 

A more contained breakaway was the order of the day on Stage 2 with Nathan Elliott (Inform TM Insight MAKE) overhauling Carter Bettles (Futuro-Maxxis) in the final kilometres and continuing on to claim the solo victory. 

The Stage 3 time trial was won by Vine with a sterling performance on the undulating nine kilometre course that saw him claim victory by 23 seconds over Jarrad Drizners (Inform TM Insight MAKE) and back up into second overall after slipping to fourth on Stage 2. 

Stage 4 saw 18-year-old Luke Plapp (Inform TM Insight MAKE) claim the first NRS win of his career, just out-sprinting Angus Lyons (Oliver's Real Food Racing) to the finish line ahead of a rapidly closing peloton in the tightest finish of the race. 

Lyons and Plapp had been part of the breakaway but formed a two-man selection just ahead of the peloton sweeping up their erstwhile companions from the early move. Plapp sat on Lyon's wheel for most of the closing kilometres and was able to get the best of the Victorian in the throw to the line.

With such a close finish there was little change in the general classification and the race headed into the final stage of the race, a criterium around Yungaburra, with Hill still the race leader from team-mate Vine. However, Hill is far from renowned as an exponent of criteriums and was expected to come under heavy attack. 

This proved to be the case and a strong quartet including second, third and fourth on the general classification escaped the peloton. With second-placed Vine marking the move for Nero Bianchi, there was little reason for many of the teams to chase and plenty of incentive for Rylee Field (individual rider and fourth on GC) and Drizners (third on GC) to drive the break to move up the overall.

The peloton got pulled from the race and the break caught them, leaving just the four riders to compete for stage and GC honours. Vine was able to counter attacks from Drizners and Field, leaving the one man in the break not present in the GC fight, JP van der Merwe (Veris Racing) in the box seat for the win. He duly took it out in the final sprint, sticking with the final powerful surge of Drizners and coming over the top for the win.

Vine finished second on the stage to secure the first GC win for Team Nero Bianchi in the NRS, as well as his first overall win. Hill ended up finishing fourth after leading the Tour the entire way, with Carter Bettles the mountains classification winner and Rylee Field the sprints classification winner. Drizners won the young rider category and Team Nero Bianchi won the teams classification.

Oliver's Real Food Racing and Team BridgeLane will be ruing some bad luck and poor timing that saw rider puncture out of key breakaways and slightly mistime moves. Lyons took two second-place finishes, but BridgeLane was strangely absent from the result sheet in a manner unusual for the perennial NRS champs.

With the result, Drizner's moves into the series lead for the 2019 NRS on 270 points, with Vine just behind on 265 points. Team Bridgelane still sit top on the pack on the team standings with 696 points, but Inform TM Insight MAKE have closed the gap dramatically, sitting just second with 668 points. 

The NRS continues with the Tour of the Tweed running August 9-11.