Matt Zenovich became the first Southlander in 10 years to win a stage in the Tour of Southland yesterday, storming home in the 148km Stage 3 from Riverton to Te Anau, but James Oram will stay in yellow for today's pivotal fourth stage.
Zenovich, part of a locally based H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus team, did a huge amount of work as part of a group of seven riders that broke away early.
The break, which also featured Brad Evans (PowerNet) and Kieran Hambrook (Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland) who finished the stage second and third respectively, had a lead of 3m 40s by the time it reached the Blackmount Hill climb.
While that was whittled down to less than a minute, Zenovich was never about to relinquish his chance at a stage victory.
With about 10km to go, he and Evans went off the front and Zenovich won the sprint finish down Te Anau's Lakefront Dr.
"I knew [Evans] could sprint better than me so I had to sit on him ... I played dumb and told him I couldn't do anything and sort of fed it to him at the end really," he said. "It's kind of mean, but it's the sport, so you've got to do it. I'm stoked, this is a pretty big win and I'm pretty happy."
Zenovich now goes to 13th in the general classification, but Oram and his Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige teammates did enough to retain the yellow jersey and an 11s lead over Joe Cooper (Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers) and Liam Aitcheson (H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus) going into today's potentially Tour-defining stage - a 179km ride from Te Anau to Queenstown, finishing with an 8km climb up Coronet Peak.
"You always want to be one step ahead of everyone else, so to come into Coronet in yellow ... I only have to follow people, I don't have to be the aggressor, it's good," Oram said. "It's probably one of the longest climbs in any New Zealand race, so it will be interesting to see how some of the younger boys shape up."