• Adam Gate celebrates after winning the first stage at the Tour of Southland (Twitter)Source: Twitter
Former winner Aaron Gate and his strong Black Spoke team have laid down an early challenge on the opening stage of the 2020 Tour of Southland.
3 Nov 2020 - 4:09 PM  UPDATED 3 Nov 2020 - 4:26 PM

Gate was part of a three-man attack which proved to be the winning move late in the 151km stage from Invercargill to Gore, beating the peloton home to take stage honours and the yellow jersey.

Gate, teammate James Oram and Ben Oliver (Central Benchmakers-Willbike) attacked final categorised climb of the race, jumping clear over the climb and flying into the finish in Gore.

Starting the day in chilly conditions, a moderate breeze made for a less demanding start to what is expected to be an ultra-competitive 64th edition of New Zealand’s famous stage race.

“It wasn’t as exciting to start with as we were helping because there wasn’t much wind,” Gate said.

“Our plan B was to light it up on the climb into the back of Gore and it just worked out perfectly with James Oram doing a perfect little lead out. The two of us managed to sneak away and then Ben Oliver from his team joined us and the three of us managed to hold off the peloton for the win, so that was awesome.”

Oliver was second on the stage, with Oram third.

Southland’s Matt Zenovich (Vet4Farm) deservedly rode his way into the Sprint Ace jersey leading a two-man breakaway for most of the stage with New Zealand endurance track representative Jordan Kerby (Base Solutions Racing).

Paul Wright (Creation Signs-MITOQ), who also featured early in the breakaway, finished the day with the King of the Mountain jersey.

Black Spoke have ventured south with a strong team which includes Gate, the 2016 Southland winner, 2013 winner Oram, and two-time winner Scott Guyton in the team car.

Time bonuses helped Gate to a six-second overall lead from Oram, with Business South’s Tom Sexton, who started the day in yellow after the opening prologue, in third place 14 seconds down.

Defending champion Michael Vink is in ninth place, trailing Gate by 29 seconds.

Black Spoke will be concerned about Ethan Batt after he was caught up in a crash today, with debutantes Alexander White and Joshua Kench expected to do plenty of work defending the yellow jersey during tomorrow’s 148km stage from Riverton to Te Anau, including the Blackmount hill climb.

“We're sort of going to work it out on the road and see how it goes,” Gate said.

“We’ll be on the front and be active, we don’t want to have too big a group sneaking off the front. Blackmount is always an interesting one that you have to be ready for. It’s not the longest climb but it can still do a bit of damage and it’s often a fast finish from there. We want to be in the right place at the right time and just be attentive really.”