09/11/2010 - He’s got 25 tours under his belt so when Bruce Ross hails the 2010 PowerNet Tour of Southland as “one of the best”, it’s big kudos.
Tour director since 1984, Ross said several factors contributed to the success of the iconic event, which was staged over nearly 900km of Southland tarmac last week.
“It was one of the best tours ever,” Ross said. “The close result certainly contributed – the race was open right to the end and that captured the imagination of the public which was evident in the big crowds at the finish line.”
In the closest finish in Tour history, Calder Stewart-Bike NZ rider Hayden Roulston, of Ashburton, claimed the title just two seconds ahead of Share the Road’s Jack Bauer, of Nelson.
The uncharacteristically sunny weather also played a role, although some riders actually expressed their dismay at the lack of driving rain and blustery conditions.
“Bad weather is usually just part in parcel of the Tour of Southland. Everyone enters on the assumption all sorts of weather will be thrown at them,” Ross said.
“This year was definitely an exception to the rule.”
For Ross, the performance of emerging riders the calibre of Otautau’s Matt Marshall, Nelson’s George Bennett and Christchurch’s Josh Atkins, who claimed the coveted Under-23 classification jersey, proved a highlight.
“They’re definitely the new talent on the block,” he said. “They had great rides in tough company. It shows New Zealand cycling is in very good shape.”
“The talent on display this year was exceptional. While some of the riders are in the twilight of their careers, there’s a new breed coming through the ranks and that’s very exciting.”
Marshall, who nabbed the silverware for both first Southlander home and first Southlander to conquer the notorious Bluff Hill, placed 14th overall in the GC stakes.
“It’s great to be able to come home and do a tour with all the top New Zealand riders in your own backyard,” he said.
“There are a lot of new under-23 riders coming through and that certainly wasn’t the case five or 10 years ago. It’s pretty exciting.
“New Zealand’s really starting to produce some good young riders.”
Australia’s status as a cycling superpower was having a flow-on effect “across the ditch” with elite races and formidable competition more accessible.
“It probably is rubbing off here as well.”
With the PowerNet Tour of Southland crown decided for another year, organisers would now debrief before switching their focus to the 2011 fixture.
Ross said changes to the nine-stage course were on the cards.
“There will be changes made to next year’s Tour, I can give you that assurance, but as for what they are, well, watch this space.”