The 2011 Junca Junior Tour descended on Te Tipua today for two stages which may turn out to be defining in a number of categories.
The morning saw racing on the infamous 25-kilometre Beast of the East circuit while the afternoon battles were waged on the neighbouring 17 kilometre New Vale Coal circuit. Both courses featured significant hill climbs which saw fields lengthen out and significant changes to the general classifications.
The Under 13 started proceedings early at 9am with a half lap over 12.5 kilometres. Kate Ward shaded Nicole Shields on the line with Ward using the time bonuses from her stage win to claw within five seconds of Shields in the race for the yellow jersey. The boys race was also a close affair with the first seven finishers being given the same time with Fletcher Sharman claiming another stage win over Lochlin Gilder and Noah Mason-Smith.
The Under 15 Girls saw Emma Bilston take the yellow jersey courtesy of her stage win over Hollee Simons, the two finishing together 16 seconds up on Tori Saunders. The Under 15 Boys was a race of two halves - the first 18 riders finishing in a bunch sprint, well ahead of the peleton's second half which finished at least two minutes behind. The Stage win went to Jack Ford who closed within a second of Samuel Jenner on GC.
The Under 17 Girls stayed together all the way to the final sprint for the line. Kate Stewart proved to have the legs in the final metres to claim the stage win from Holly Edmondston and in the process also claimed the leader's yellow jersey for the afternoon stage. The Under 19 Women were also largely buried in the same bunch with Kayley Murdoch claiming the stage from Julia Main who maintained her overall classification lead.
The Under 17 boys provided the best finish of the morning as 45 of the 50 starters descended on the finish line in the final sprint. Josh Haggerty lead the sprint out from a long way out until the yellow jersey appeared on his wheel and finished over the top of him to claim another Aussie victory for Jack Edwards. Harrison Jones also snuck in front of a brave Haggerty who held on for a deserved third.
Meanwhile Joel MacMillan broke away on the final lap of the Under 19 Mena's race and held on to cap a powerful effort and an eight second stage win and leap to a single second away from yellow with Dylan Kennett earning the leader's jersey for the afternoon stage courtesy of his sprint for second in the stage.
After a re-fuel over lunch at Te Tipua School each field backed up for the afternoon fourth stage.
Nicole Shields claimed a comfortable win to tighten her grip on yellow. She takes a 49 second lead over Kate Ward into Sunday's final day. Fletcher Sharman chalked up yet another stage win, leading Kain Bowles hmone by 6 seconds to stretch his margin out to 18 seconds. The Under 15 Girls featured one of the most dominant performances. Emma Bilston left the rest of the bunch in her wake and finished an incredible 1'30 in front of her closest rival. She increased her GC lead out to 2'20 and it seems only disaster on Sunday can stop her taking a yellow Yunca jersey home with her to Australia. The Under 15 Boys field closed right up courtesy of Sam Dobbs afternoon victory - the top five riders are separated by under 20 seconds.
The Under 17 Girls was won by Robin Hacker Cary over Josie Talbot with Talbot claiming the Tour leaders yellow jersey with a norrow three second buffer over Kate Stewart on GC. Julia Main continued to eek out the seconds at the top of the Under 19 Women's classification. Her afternoon stage win snuck her overall lead out to 16 seconds over Kayley Murdoch.
The two remaining male races saw decisive moves. The Under 17 jersey has switched to Connor Stead's back after he was part of a three-man breakaway that took over a minute and a half out of the main bunch. Stead took the stage win with Dan Fitter and Luke Wieblitz on his wheel. It means Stead takes a three second GC advantage over Wieblitz with their next nearest rival 1'19 behind.
If that was impressive, the Under 19 winner was nothing short of spectacular. After an early crash which brought five riders down, the race turned into a Tayla Harrison and Hamish Schreurs benefit. The two worked superbly together and they rode off into the distance with the peleton seemingly powerless to do anything about it. In the end the victory margin was 1'50 with the bulk of the bunch nearly four mintes down. Harrison takes yellow with his afternoon partner Schreurs 6 seconds back and the third placed rider on GC at 2'01.
The Yunca Tour ends with the traditional inner-city criterium in the morning before the afternoon stage to determine the classification winners over the eight grades in Springhills and Mabel Bush.