Invercargill cyclist Pieter Bulling moved into contention for the under-23 podium after a strong performance in stage six of the Tour of Ireland overnight (NZT).
Bulling and fellow BikeNZ-Pure Black Racing teammate Taylor Gunman finished in a select lead group after the gruelling 134km stage from Bunrana to the west coast fishing port of Killybegs, which featured with several category one and two climbs.
Yellow jersey holder Nicolas Baldo of France rode clear with a late attack to win the stage by 10 seconds from a 30-strong bunch, where Bulling and Gunman finished 11th and 12th respectively in the sprint finish.
Bulling gained six places in the under-23 class to move to third, 5:08 off leader Richard Handley, and is 27th in the overall standings at 5:26 down on Baldo. Gunman is seventh in the under-23 race and 36th overall.
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The summer turned out in force for the sixth stage as temperatures topped 30 degrees Celsius, adding to the challenge of the telling climbs, with the field splintered after a fast first hour covering 48 km.
Southland's Cameron Karwowski lost time with a mechanical issue that left him requiring a bike change, while Bulling and Gunman rode powerfully to go with the select group that went clear off the front.
Bulling dropped off the group with 15 km to go but, after 10 km of hard solo riding, he managed to ride back on to the peloton and received a lead-out from Gunman in the sprint.
Tomorrow's penultimate stage is 161 km from Donegal to Cootehill and features two categorised climbs.