Below is the first part of a daily diary I’ve been keeping for Peloton Cafe an Australian Cycling Website.
Day One The 2013 Tour of Southland got underway today with a 4.2km TTT, a single lap of the traditional Queens Park venue in central Invercargill. Weather forecasts for the coming week are looking surprisingly and quite uncharacteristically pleasant and we were treated to blue skies, warm temperatures andlittle wind today. When you’re this far south, conditions can change very quickly however and I feel confident we will see some of the wind and hail the tour is renown for before the week is out.
With my racing commitments for Team Budget Forklifts now over for the season, I had originally planned to hang up the bike for a bit of a rest following the Warrny. An opportunity to ride for the Calder Stewart team in Southland was far too good to turn down however. Calder Stewart has a strongreputation at the tour for solid results but also for the incredible amount of support they give their riders. I’m certainly lucky to be part of a very strong team that includes well performed climbers Michael Torkler and Jeremy Vennell, strong men Jas Allen and Karl Murray and talented, young national track representative Hamish Schreurs.
Today, it was the Genesys Team from Australia who took a classy win, clearly showing the benefit of having ridden several TTTs together on the NRS this year. Meanwhile our team were solid yet unspectacular, finishing about seven seconds down. With over 900km of racing and two hard hilltop finishes, today’s time gaps won’t count for too much and the racing is far from over.
Tomorrow we have 168km from Invercargill to Gore in a stage that has traditionally been Avery tough one, especially if the wind gets up. It should be awesome!
Day Two Warm and sunny weather, combined with a lack of wind meant today’s 167km stage to Gore was far from being as decisive as it has been in previous years. It was a pretty easy and uneventful day for the majority of riders in the peloton.
The pace was quick as the flag dropped from outside Southland Girls High School with most of the NZ usual suspects trying to place themselves in the early breakaway. It took a while, but the move did finally establish itself, containing several strong riders in Dan Barry, Taylor Gunman, LachlanNorris, Roman Van Uden and Hamish Schreurs representing our Calder Stewart team.
Their gap quickly blew out to over three minutes before Genesys moved to the front to stabilise the gap. They were later assisted by the Polygon team in the chase. Nothing really happened for the next hundred kilometres aside from the occasional jockeying for bunch position between the teams.
With twenty kilometres remaining there was still a two minute gap to the leaders and it seemed likely they would stay away. The peloton were motoring along however meanwhile the breakaway had slowed down significantly. We had them in our sights with three kilometres to go and caught the majority of it inside the final kilometre. Van Uden however had other plans, evading the quickly closing peloton with a classy late move.
The Aussies in the field will be happy to see that Southland’s famous weather may make an appearance tomorrow, with rain and southerly winds forecast from midday. Sun shine or rain, tomorrow is guaranteed to be a decisive stage thanks to the hilltop finish on the horrifically steep Bluff Hill. It will definitely be a day for the climbers and hopefully our two Calder Stewart mountain goats, Vennell and Torkler will be right in the mix.
Day Three The Bluff Hill stage of the Tour of Southland is iconic and always a hard day on the bike with this year being no exception. We saw a bit of wind and rain out on the road today for the first time this tour however it was far from the regions worst and temperatures remained relatively warm.
With the ascent of Coronet Peak, our team firmly believe this years edition is one for the climbers and so we are dedicating our efforts to ride in the support of Torckler and Vennell. With that in mind, we were focused on delivering the pair to the base of Bluff in the best position and were not interested in featuring in any break away today.
After a fast and hectic start, a break away did finally get away. It was a bit stronger than we would have liked and included last years winner Mike Northey. The H&Js team of the yellow jersey initially took up the chase, with our team putting Murray and Schruers up to help out. Meanwhile the break reached a maximum advantage of over three minutes.
As we came back through Invercargill, the pace making had been left entirely up to our Calder Stewart team, with Barry Stewart Builders and in particular the legend himself Gordon McCauley lending a hand. The injection of big Jas Allen and myself into the pace line spurred the chase on and withan increase in tempo we had the break in our sight with ten kilometers remaining.
The break away was caught on the lower slopes of Bluff and it was time for the climbers to come to the fore. At the summit, it was James Oram from KiwiVelo who took a classy victory meanwhile Vennell was close behind in sixth for our team. At the back of the field, having done my job I enjoyed a pretty comfortable ascent in the company of my team mates.
Tomorrow is another long one -148km to Te Anau but while the Blackmount climb should do some damage, I expect it to be more of a ‘transition stage’ with the queen stage to Coronet on Thursday.