October 4, Stage 6: Ulverstone – Penguin 106km
Bernie Sulzberger (Drapac) has won a two man sprint over Rhys Gillett (African Wildlife Safaris) ahead of the remnants of a decimated peloton on the sixth stage of the Caterpillar Tour of Tasmania. Less than a day after Drapac Cycling announced they were re-signing him as part of their 2014 pro continental campaign, Sulzberger has shown them to have made a wise decision by winning the toughest stage of the Tour thus far.
“It was looking really good for the general classification when Robbie [Hucker] and Darren [Lapthorne] were up the road,” explained Sulzberger. “I managed to stay with Jack on the climb and just get across to them and get away pretty quickly at the end to finish it off, which was good.
“Jack’s obviously going very strong at the moment, Robbie and Darren attacked to try and narrow the lead, but he was just too strong,” he added. “The aim was to get away and isolate Haig, which we did.
“Haig was the only Genesys rider in that breakaway [earlier in the day], but in the end a few guys got back like Pat Shaw and Cooper and they did a lot of work to bring it together.”
The day began with a flurry of attacks on the opening climb out of Ulverstone with Drapac ravaging the peloton to isolate Haig early on in the piece. At one stage there were four Drapac riders with Haig waiting tentatively for his teammates to return.
After some regrouping occurred, Ben Grenda (Polygon) won the first sprint on the road to take the overall lead in the sprint classification. Soon after Brodie Talbot (Caterpillar) was the first to crest the first KOM on the day, a vicious 1.5km at 13%, and in doing so secured himself the overall lead in the KOM jersey.
Soon after the peloton began the descent down into the valley that preceded the second KOM on the day, and it was the race leader himself who was caught out with a puncture.
[pull_quote_center]”At about 500 metres down the descent to Gunns Plains I got a front wheel puncture,” Haig explained. “I quickly took out my wheel and changed it and then I waited up for the main peloton to catch me before riding with them into the valley.[/pull_quote_center]
“Joe Cooper did an amazing job riding the valley section while Nathan [Earle] paced me all the way up the climb until the last 500 metres. Then I jumped across to Darren [Lapthorne].”
On the undulating but mostly downhill run toward the finish at Penguin, Haig was isolated in a group of five riders with Darren Lapthorne, Robbie Hucker (Drapac), Sulzberger and Gillett.
With only Hucker and Lapthorne the immediate threats on GC, Haig stuck to them like glue whilst Sulzberger slipped away with Gillett. As the GC contenders marked themselves out of a stage win, Sulzberger managed to outsprint Gillett and take the stage.
At the finish, Haig was complimentary of the efforts from Hucker and Lapthorne, the two riders he trains with in his Victorian home town of Bendigo.
“Drapac are really giving it all to us. They’re really strong guys and I’ve got a lot of respect for them, as I train a lot with them in Bendigo,” Haig commented. “They’re going to try everything to get the yellow jersey.”
Haig lost only four seconds of his overall lead to Robbie Hucker (Drapac) who now sits 1:43 behind the race leader. Haig also maintains his lead in the young rider classification whilst Drapac extended their lead over Huon-Genesys in the teams classification
The Subaru National Road Series continues tomorrow with the penultimate stage of the Tour of Tasmania, another tough 83km stage starting and finishing in the Northern Tasmanian coastal town of Burnie.