While the Tour Down Under is going on in Australia, on the other side of the Tasman Sea Matthew Gibson has chalked up the first victory by a British rider in a UCI race in 2018.
The JLT Condor rider took victory on stage three of the New Zealand Cycle Classic on Friday, narrowly out-sprinting Toby Orchard (Australian Cycling Academy-Ride Sunshine Coast) and Ryan Thomas (Brisbane Continental Cycling Team) at the end of the flat 126km stage to Martinborough.
A photo finish was needed to separate the riders on the line, with Gibson having to wait a few minutes for the race commissaires to confirm his victory, the 21-year-old’s first in a senior UCI-level race.
“I obviously tried to keep relaxed and stay not too close during the first few laps [of the 8.1km finishing circuit, which was covered nine times at the end of the stage],” Gibson said after the race.
“The boys in the team did a great job getting me to the front and keeping me in a good spot to sprint in the last few hundred metres and take the win – I was pretty happy with that.”
Gibson’s victory moves him up to 11th overall in the general classification after he finished 14th and fifth on the opening two stages, with Nicholas Reddish (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) in the leader’s yellow jersey.
Saturday’s stage four covers 152km and is the queen stage of the race, featuring a summit finish to Admiral Hill that is likely to decide the race’s final victor.
The final stage on Sunday is a 120km circuit race around Masterton, which Gibson will presumably be targetting to take his second win of the 2018 season.
This is the third time in as many years that JLT-Condor have provided Britain’s first win of the year, with Jon Mould winning stage four of the New Zealand Cycle Classic in 2017, while Chris Lawless went even better by winning the first stage of the event in 2016.