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Meet Corbin Strong, the surprise of the Tour of Britain

Picture by Zac Williams/SWpix.com- 5/09/2022 - Cycling - 2022 AJ Bell Tour of Britain - Stage 2 - Harwick to Duns, Scotland - Corbin Strong retains the race lead.
Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) leads the Tour of Britain after three stages (Image credit: SWPix)

After an Israel-Premier Tech rider sprinted across the line on stage 1 of the Tour of Britain to win the reduced bunch finish at Glenshee, an experienced WorldTour team member summed up the surprise by mistakenly referring to the winner as Dylan Teuns.

Corbin Strong may not be the expected Israel-Premier Tech frontrunner in an experienced lineup that includes the Belgian puncheur and Michael Woods, but he took the opportunity with both hands.

"It was a big buzz for me, I've been wanting to get that win all year so it was nice to do that," he told Cyclingnews.

Racing in the leader's red jersey for stages 2 and 3 of the Tour of Britain has been a step up from the last time he was in a similar position after winning the 2021 New Zealand Cycle Classic.

This is the 22-year-old's first year on the WorldTour. He has mixed road and track racing through his nascent career, winning the points race world title in 2020 and taking the Commonwealth Games scratch race in August. Much of last season was taken up with his focus on the Tokyo Olympic Games, where he finished 11th in the Madison.

"I come from the track, so I've got a bit of a sprint but I'm also quite light so I really like the uphills. Maybe 20-minute climbs are my max at the moment," Strong said. "I enjoy the reduced bunch sprints, so maybe I'm a rider a bit like Michael Matthews."

Races like the Tour of Britain and other one-week stage races are on the Andorra-based racer's hit-list for the next years.

"Maybe in the future, some punchier Classics are really where I want to go in my career. But it's nice to get the ball rolling here at the Tour of Britain and hopefully I continue this way," he says.

2022 has predominantly been about gaining experience. Strong's first tastes of the WorldTour this season were eventful.

"I had a crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and ended up in hospital, so it didn't finish well. Then at the Volta a Catalunya I also got sick. So right now, I haven't made the greatest mark on WorldTour races."

Hailing from the New Zealand city of Invercargill, Strong can also lay a claim to being the pro cyclist from the most geographically southerly place in the world. That upbringing also meant he was at greater ease in the deluges on stage one and three of the Tour of Britain.

"We have lots of rainy, windy, cold days in my hometown, where I grew up riding my bike, so it felt like home," he said.

Strong was 10 when he first started racing. "I was lucky enough we have an indoor velodrome in Invercargill, so I could ride on the track. My older brother [24-year-old Hayden, who races for UCI Continental team China Glory] was into cycling as well, so I came along and watched a couple of his races; my dad raced too."

Like most New Zealanders in a nation mad about the oval ball, he's a big rugby fan and played it alongside cycling till he was 15 years old.

It's not been a straightforward journey from the South Island to the WorldTour. As a teenager, he was supported by Stabicraft, an international boat-making company that started up in New Zealand. They helped him to race in the country's North Island, Australia and the junior world championships in Europe.

Then, as his career was taking off, a crash into a parked car in 2018 left him with a fractured T1 vertebra and off the bike for two months. Growing up, Strong had a particular affinity for EF Education-EasyPost rider Tom Scully among numerous other pros.

"He comes from close to my home, it was cool seeing someone from down my way in the WorldTour as well," he says. "Chris Froome in the team too, he was a big rider I looked up to. There's lots of inspiration, even in this race as well. Having guys like Richie Porte and Michał Kwiatkowski recognise me, come up and say hello is really cool."

At the Tour of Britain, his team's experience has helped him on the road too.

"There was a couple of times in the last 10km on the first day that I got a wee bit excited and Mike [Woods] just had to remind me to calm down a wee bit and trust the team. It was really helpful having the experience of those guys there, to stay cool in the final stages."

As his sprint showed, he's strong by name, clearly strong by nature. Although the New Zealander lost the race lead after a late results change on stage 3, he is sat pretty in second place overall. Can he carry on like he started and win the Tour of Britain?

"Yeah, I think he's capable of winning races like this on this terrain and he's got the capacity to do those things," his Israel-Premier Tech directeur sportif Zak Dempster said.

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