Norris claims yellow jersey after stage 4 heroics
Lachlan Norris (Drapac Cycling) claimed stage four in the Caterpillar Underground Mining Tour of Tasmania on Thursday, snatching the yellow jersey form Mark O'Brien (Budget Forklifts).
The Victorian, who was almost a minute down on general classification in sixth position, took out the 101km stage in a solo victory over Nathan Earle (Genesys) second, with O'Brien third.
“The whole stage was super hard, I was so nervous at the start,” he said.
“All the boys were so good looking after me, I just knew that I had to keep trying and eventually I got that gap and it was a massive time trial effort to the finish so I was really happy to finish it off for the boys,” the 25-year-old said.
Earlier in the day, O'Brien had a four second advantage over Jay McCarthy to retain the leaders jersey after stage three's criterium.
However, Norris finished 45 seconds ahead of O'Brien in the afternoon stage, collecting enough KOM bonus points to take the jersey from the former Subaru National Road Series leader.
Norris now leads by nine seconds over O'Brien, with Tasmania's Nathan Earle (Genesys) in third, 58 seconds from the lead.
In three days the lead has swung to three different teams, showing the strength of the course and competitors.
“We can’t under estimate anyone, there is still a lot of the tour to race but with the line-up we’ve got, we are all working so well as a team I am confident we can hold onto the lead,” Norris said.
O’Brien was very disappointed to have lost his lead on the tour.
“I gave it my best out there but I didn’t have the legs at the end,” he said.
“I am on my way back up after a few injuries in the middle of the season so hopefully I can get back into it in the next few days.
“I am not going to give up and we’ll give it our best,” O’Brien said.
With extremely windy conditions making it tough for all riders, the race was split in two after just 8km, after a lead group of 40 riders including all the big players set the pace.
Ben Grenda (Polygon Australia) made an audacious move solo at the 60km mark, gaining a respectable lead of 50 seconds while he collected King of the Mountain and an intermediate sprint points.
The Tasmanian worked hard for 15 kilometres before the peloton finally caught him on the day’s first category 1 climb.
From there the strongest climbers again showed form and with two major climbs left in the final 20km, a group of five including O'Brien, Norris and Earle formed the group along with Kristian Juel (Erdinger) and Jay Bourke (Team Down Under), managed to break from the thinning field.
With 10km remaining, Bourke and Juel were dropped when Norris and O'Brien put the pedal down and Earle soon also fell behind. However the Tasmanian worked hard over the next five kilometres to chase the lead two down, catching them with 7km remaining to the finish line.
On the final hill climb, it was a game of cat and mouse before Norris took his chance with five kilometres to go, leaving O'Brien and Earle to battle it out for the minor placing’s.
In the morning's criterium, Josh Taylor (GPM Wilson) claimed his first NRS series stage win after breaking away from the field with ten laps to go. The 21-year-old Taylor finished 18 seconds ahead of Scott Law (Search2Retain) and Anthony Giacoppo (Genesys) in third.
“That was the hardest I’ve ever ridden for a win … I am looking for a bigger contract for next year so I am really happy with that.
“With five laps to go I was hurting really bad and I didn’t realise I had such a big gap,” Taylor said.
The 42km criterium in Westbury was hotly contested for those riders keen to show their sprinting skills, with Drapac controlling it early and sprint Jersey holder Neil Van Der Ploeg (Search2Retain) picking up more points.
Taylor took his chances for a break and joined Kiwi rider James Williamson (Felt NZ) on lap 20, dropping him shortly after, before the maintaining a relentless pace to the line to take the win.
The Tour of Tasmania is the eighth event for men in the 2012 Subaru National Road Series.
Day four features two stages, firstly in Ulverstone for a 36km criterium before a 78km road race to Penguin.