Cycling: World track champion Aaron Gate takes NZ Cycle Classic opening stage to show road credentials

Aaron Gates wins the NZ Cycle Classic opening stage.
Aaron Gates wins the NZ Cycle Classic opening stage. Photo credit: Dave Lintott

World track champion Aaron Gate has served up a timely reminder of his road-racing abilities, taking out the opening stage of the NZ Cycle Classic.

Representing the NZ national team, Gate sprinted away from his nearest rivals over the closing stages of the 158.1km stage, beginning and ending in Masterton, clocking 3h 31m 47s.

After winning points race gold - as well as bronze in the madison and team pursuit - at the 2023 world track championships, he has also been named as Sportsman of the Year finalist at next month's Halberg Award.

While track has proved his forte, Gate brings an impressive record outdoors, where he won Commonwealth Games gold - one of four titles - at Birmingham two years ago and previously won the NZ Cycle Classic in 2019.

"I came into this one with some confidence, having won it before," he said. "I kind of knew what it took.

"The training I’ve been doing over the summer has been very track specific and although the velodrome is flat, this is kind of similar… sort of one-minute punch to the line, which is what I’ve been training for. It was good to be able to put that to good use and win a stage."

Gate missed the initial four-rider breakaway that built a three-minute lead over the peloton, but was eventually brought back with 18km remaining.

"It can always be a mixed bag, this first stage, so it was lucky we had that cohesion amongst the teams that missed the break," he said.

At the finish-line, he was 1.5 seconds clear of Bailey O'Donnell, with national teammate Logan Currie third. Gate also holds the sprint ace jersey, after the opening day.

On Thursday, the field will race over 127km, travelling from Masterton to Martinborough, where they will complete eight laps of a 7.1km circuit.