Rotorua's Sam Phipps has achieved a career highlight after winning stage two of the 2016 SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
The Team Skoda Racing rider, a protege of top New Zealand professional Julian Dean, gapped his fellow breakaway riders on the foreshore of Lake Te Anau today to claim line honours after a 150km stage from Riverton to Te Anau.
"It was awesome. This has been the biggest dream of my cycling career, to win a stage on the Tour of Southland," Phipps said. "It hasn't sunk in yet - it will take a while - but I'm stoked."
Phipps was part of a nine-strong break which had built a 2min 40sec lead by the time they reached the sausage capital of Tuatapere.
Despite holding a consistent advantage as the leaders approached the shadow of the Blackmount hill climb, it looked as if a 3min lead would not be enough over the final 20km haul from Manapouri to Te Anau.
"It was a hard day out there in the head winds and everything," Phipps said.
"We were rolling pretty well the whole time and there was some strong guys in there. Alex Frame was a legend, pulling hard. It was a good day out there.
"We went pretty easy up Blackmount. If we'd gone any harder I might have been in a bit of trouble, but then we got straight back into it and the biggest thing was keeping everyone motivated. With about 20km to go it looked like it would be hard to stay away, but we kept rolling."
Phipps jumped off the front of the break bunch to claim the stage, with Frame finishing second and taking the tour leaders' yellow jersey from his Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel team mate Travis McCabe.
Phipps paid credit to the effort by Frame, a 2015 world team pursuit champion, throughout the stage.
"He was the strongest in there by far, he was pulling some big turns.
If it wasn't for him it would have been hard to stay away, so full credit to him," Phipps said.
"I was just sitting in and making sure I was eating and drinking, made sure I kept feeling good and then with 10km to go I started feeling better and better. I just gritted my teeth and took my opportunity."
Frame has a 42sec lead over McCabe, with under 23 leader Ayden Toovey 46sec in arrears heading into tomorrow's third stage from Mossburn to Queenstown's Coronet Peak.
While it's actually the shortest of the single stage days on this year's tour, the 9km climb to the hilltop finish is expected to be a turning point in the race.
"Our whole team was just trying to get someone in the break so we wouldn't have to ride the front through that grim-as section at Blackmount Hill. I was the one that got in and just tapped away back to here," Frame said.
"We've got three guys that are in the main bunch - Travis (McCabe), Taylor (Gunman) and Steve (Lampier), they are all good climbers, they are all on the bunch time heading into tomorrow's hilltop finish."
Southland's Nick Kergozou (Barry Stewart Builders) and Ollie Jones (Olphert Contrating) both retained the sprint and King of the Mountain classifications, respectively.
Reon Nolan (Placemakers) is the leading over 35 rider, with Morgan Smith (Barry Stewart Builders) winning the Most Combative honours after his efforts in the break.