Stranded in New Zealand by Covid-19, then abandoned by British Cycling: How this Scottish rider came to win his first UCI stage race

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Two years after being stranded in New Zealand by the Covid-19 pandemic, Scotsman Mark Stewart won his first UCI classified stage race.

Stewart, who now races for the Bolton Equities Black Spoke team, won the New Zealand Cycle Classic overall after triumphing in the race’s most hilly stage.

Before the pandemic, Stewart’s highest UCI ranking was 18th on the first stage of the 2017 Tour of Britain; he is not the first horseman to have flourished after confinement.

Speaking to Stuff.NZ, Stewart revealed that he originally came to New Zealand to visit his partner, track cyclist Emma Cumming, but the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to stay poles apart.

“I came for a month, believe it or not,” said Stewart. “I came with a backpack for a month, then Covid hit, British Cycling let me down, so I thought I would stay a few more, and it ended up going on for two years.

“A year ago I ran this race… I wasn’t in race condition but it was one of my favorite races, the courses are amazing. Running around the capital, what an experience, so I thought I would like to come back next year and just respect this race, and try to win it. And that doesn’t often go as planned. “

Stewart’s team dominated, winning three of the five stages and holding the leader’s jersey throughout the race.

Classic New Zealand cyclist

Stewart leads the New Zealand Cycle Classic

(Image credit: New Zealand Cycle Classic / Facebook)

They won the first stage team time trial by 22 seconds, before Stewart won the steep Te Wharau Hill final on day four, and his teammate Regan Gough won the final stage of the circuit around the capital. Wellington.

Stewart was just one of five non-New Zealanders to finish the race. The peloton included WorldTour pro George Bennett, who raced for Team New Zealand rather than UAE-Team Emirates, finishing fourth.

The 26-year-old has raced the road for An Post Chain Reaction and Ribble before on the UK and Irish national stages, but has now signed up with Bolton Equities Black Spoke.

He won track medals, including gold in the points race at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but was later taken out of the UK cycling program.

With Black Spoke’s new outfit deal, Stewart is looking to get more results for the team this season.

“What’s the date today? The ninth? It’s been nine days so it’s a good start for the new job, eh,” he said.

“It’s scary, isn’t it? If that’s how we started the year, we set the standard for ourselves. But that’s exactly why they brought in guys like me and Regan.

“We came to do business, we are here to ride hard and train hard, and we are here to do it in an honest and integral way, and I hope the results will come.”

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