Day two of the Vital Signs Fight for Yellow dawned as clear and sunny as day one, boding well for the two stages ahead. The riders gathered at the Croydon Lodge in Gore before heading out to the start of the third road stage, with Matt Zenovich as the overnight leader in A grade, Scott Donnelly leading B grade, and Jette Simon leading C grade.
The first stage would take riders over a rather lumpy 45 kilometre course, with plenty of opportunities for someone keen on a breakaway, and with the potential to shake up the overall standings.
The A grade field was largely intact in the run in to the line, although not for lack of trying. Neil Cleghorn claimed line honours, just ahead of Navarh Brotherston in second, and Blake Tait-Jones in third. Race leader Matt Zenovich came home in joint ninth place, giving up 14 seconds to the stage winner. However, he retained his grip on the yellow jersey, 17 seconds ahead of Fraser Hewett in second, with Mitchel Fitzsimons 2:06 off the race lead in third.
In B grade the field split into a couple of main groups, but it was Scott Donnelly who emerged victorious once more, pipping breakaway companion Gavin Mason at the line, with Jake Willis leading home a small chase group 41 seconds behind the stage winner to take third place. The win meant that Donnelly tightened his grip on the jersey even further, with Mason in second, more than a minute and a half down, and Morgan Borrie 5:15 off the race lead in third.
The C grade field was whittled down over the course of the stage, with a group of eight coming to the line together. Former yellow jersey Phil Te Tana took the win, two seconds clear of David Knight, with Rhylee Akeroyd in third in the same time. Overnight leader Jette Simon finished in fifth, also two seconds behind the stage winner, but that was enough to retain her lead going into the final stage, with Dean Stewart 11 seconds further back in second, and Akeroyd 1:17 off the race lead in third.
The final stage saw the riders take on a circuit race, with A grade completing six laps of a nine kilometre circuit, B grade completing five laps of the same circuit, and C grade completing four laps.
A grade was once again quite tightly spaced as they came to the line, with Mitchel Fitzsimons taking the win, just ahead of Navarh Brotherston in second and Matt Zenovich in third. The result meant that Zenovich would take out the Fight for Yellow title in A grade, 18 seconds ahead of Fraser Hewett in second, with Mitchell Fitzsimons in third, 2:04 off the race lead.
B grade had a certain sense of foregone conclusion about it, and Scott Donnelly did not disappoint, claiming his fifth stage win for an unblemished record during the tour. His time of 1:18.38 was a demolition of the field, with Brook Armishaw coming home in second, almost five minutes off the stage winner’s time, nine second clear of David McCormick in third. Donnelly took out the overall title in B grade convincingly, 10:42 clear of Morgan Borrie in second place, with Jake Willis in third, 11:21 off the race win.
In C grade a reduced group of four came to the line at the end of the stage, with Rhylee Akeroyd taking the stage win, two seconds clear of yellow jersey Jette Simon, with Craig Sadlier in third, and Dean Stewart in fourth. Simon’s second place finish was enough to secure the overall title in C grade, 13 seconds clear of Stewart in second, with Akeroyd taking third, 1:15 off the title.
It was certainly a tough two days of racing, but the weather could not have been better, and the riders and organisers can certainly be relieved that they had the opportunity to experience Southland hospitality without anyone having to apologise for the weather.
The second year of the Vital Signs Fight for Yellow has demonstrated that the event is no one-hit wonder, and many riders will already be pencilling this one into their calendars for next year.