VINK ON CUSP OF SBS BANK TOUR OF SOUTHLAND WIN
2/11/18: Cantabrian Michael Vink is on the cusp on a hard-earned SBS Bank Tour of Southland victory with two stages remaining in New Zealand’s most prestigious stage race.
After surviving everything the peloton could throw at him on today’s Mataura Licensing Trust 151km stage from Invercargill to Gore, Vink will be hoping it’s third time lucky tomorrow after finishing runner-up in the SBS Bank-sponsored race in 2016 and 2017.
“I’ve been runner up twice, third, fourth, seventh and ninth - I’ve been so, so close so many times and I feel like I’ve made every mistake in the book in this race so I feel like I’m due a win,” the affable Vink said.
“You just don’t know. Things can turn on their head so quickly on this tour - a bad night, a puncture, I’ll prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
It was a relatively quiet stage today after the weather battering the race has received this week, but there was a huge amount of pressure being applied on Vink and his WPC South-Joyride Apparel team, especially by the Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel team including defending champion James Piccoli and Hamish Bond.
With Vink, Bond and Sam Gaze catching the early break midway through the stage and Vink latching onto second-placed Bond’s wheel throughout, Piccoli was able to slip away on the Broughton St hill climb to take his second stage win in as many days and make up for some of the disappointment of his crash at the base of Coronet Peak on Wednesday.
“Today the plan was just to disrupt the race as much as we could to try and gain some time back on GC for Hamish,” Piccoli said.
“Unfortunately Mike Vink did a great job of defending today. We threw everything we had at him and we got close to making him vulnerable so we will keep fighting tomorrow. That’s why we are here, to fight and race our bikes. We won’t give up until the race is over.”
Vink, who leads Bond by 1min 32sec, Piccoli by 3min 03sec and Gaze by 3min 17sec, is a noted time trial rider and won’t expect to lose significant time over the short McConachie Shearing 13km course based around Winton.
That will leave him with a final 77km stage from Invercargill to Winton to defend the yellow jersey tomorrow afternoon.
“I think I’ve won that (time trial) three of four times, but I’ve never had to go up against Hamish Bond before, and a Hamish Bond who is in the GC battle. I’m going to ride as fast as I can, that’s the plan,” Vink said.
Today’s stage got underway with a nice moment when Southland’s junior world team pursuit champion Corbin Strong was honoured with a haka by his Southland Boys’ High school mates as the peloton passed the school.
Strong is placed second behind Ethan Batt in the under 23 classification, and ninth overall, with Batt having also virtually locked up the King of the Mountain jersey.
Southland’s Matt Zenovich has a big lead in the Sprint Ace classification, while Paul Odlin is the race’s leading over 35 rider.
VINK BOSSES CORONET CLIMB TO TAKE TOUR OF SOUTHLAND LEAD
Michael Vink came into this year’s SBS Bank Tour of Southland under the radar, but that has all changed now.
The 26-year-old Cantabrian made the torturous 12km Queenstown Flooring Xtra Coronet Peak climb look like an escalator at the end of a 138km stage from Mossburn to Queenstown today to take a 1min 20sec lead overall at the midway point of the SBS Bank-sponsored race.
“The key today was having an easy ride the last two days. The team has looked after me so, so well and I hit the bottom of the climb really fresh,” Vink said.
“It’s a sedate stage until you hit the bottom of the climb, but I knew that the legs were good.”
Vink has been one of the top riders on the New Zealand cycling scene for a decade, including finishing third overall and leading under 23 rider in the 2012 Southland tour, and runner-up for the past two years.
A seven-strong breakaway led by U23 Australian rider Jensen Plowright (Aardvark Excavators) took the tour through northern Southland and around picturesque Lake Wakatipu, edging out to a lead of nearly 4mins.
Plowright would eventually take on the Coronet Peak climb alone, before being joined by Vink, Hamish Bond, Sam Gaze and Lionel Mawditt.
Vink bossed the climb to finish well over a minute ahead of Commonwealth Games gold medallist mountainbiker Gaze, with Bond third.
A niggly crash in the shadow of the climb threw a scare into the peloton, and then defending champion James Piccoli crashed heavily at the hard right hand corner leading into the climb.
He eventually recovered his bike and tried to mount a brave last ditch assault, but it’s likely the popular Canadian’s title defence is over for this year.
Overnight leader Matt Zenovich managed to limit his losses on the climb, but still slipped to 12th place overall.
Southland’s Corbin Strong impressed on the hill, the world junior team pursuit champion finishing sixth overall.
Vink (WPC South - Joyride Apparel) has put himself in position to win the Southland tour before, but has missed crucial breaks at crucial times.
This year he believes he has the team around him to cling on to a yellow jersey which has proved slippery in the past, with a 1min 20sec lead over teammate Oliver Martin, Gaze third at 1min 21sec and Bond fourth at 1min 34sec.
“It’s always good to have a lead, but things can change so quickly so we have to be on our game if we want to hold it. I’ve been in this position before so I know what to do and we’ll be ready for it.”
In Vink’s favour is the fact he has won tomorrow’s BDO Invercargill stage from Invercargill to Bluff Hill before and he can draw on the experience of 2015 tour winner Brad Evans in the team van beside him.
“It’s really nice having Brad as road captain. In other years I’ve been GC rider and captain, which is a hard thing to juggle. I think finishing with six guys in the prologue on the first day, and riding such a quick time was a really good sign straight off the bat. The boys have had a pretty good run so far so they’ll be ready to unleash tomorrow.”
Auckland’s Connor Brown leads the under 23 classification by 22sec from Strong, while Matt Zenovich leads the Sprint Ace standings, and Ethan Batt the King of the Mountains.
Glenn Haden has moved into the lead in the over 35 classification, with WPC South-Joyride Apparel the leading team.
Tomorrow’s fourth stage is 148km from Invercargill to Bluff Hill, finishing at about 2.15pm.
SBS BANK TOUR OF SOUTHLAND TURNS ON TOUGH CONDITIONS IN STAGE TWO
30/10/18: The Tour of Southland bared its teeth in an evil grimace on day two, the Distinction Te Anau Hotel And Villas stage from Riverton to Te Anau today.
New Zealand’s most prestigious bike race is renowned for its testing weather, and after a couple of years of relatively benign conditions, payback arrived in the form of wind, rain, hail and general misery for much of the 150km stage.
Southland’s Matt Zenovich has retained the yellow jersey for a second day after coming home in the chasing pack behind stage winner Morgan Smith, of Auckland, with the Aardvark Excavators rider using his bulkier frame and dogged attitude to good effect on the way to taking Most Combative honours as well.
“Last year was pretty tame and the weaker, skinnier guys got away with a lot so it was good to have a tough day,” Smith, who is contesting his seventh straight SBS Bank-sponsored tour, said.
“I’ve come in fourth twice on this stage and it’s one I target, I really enjoy it. I’m just so relieved to win. I’m a bit heavier than most so I don’t feel the cold and I can handle the wind. I knew if I got over Blackmount in front of the boys, I’d be alright. The closer I got the more excited I got, and I just tried to wait and be patient and had a crack at the end.”
Zenovich (Placemakers) holds a 9sec lead over Oliver Martin (WPC South-Joyride Apparel), with Kevin Girkins (Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel) 25sec off the lead in third place.
Defending champion James Piccoli is 1min 07sec down in 21st place.
“We started the day looking at the weather forecast as our main priority,” Zenovich said.
“We all felt good as a team and we decided on a plan as a unit. We kind of pulled it off, we lost a couple of guys early, but it all worked out in the end. (It was) pretty tough, even for a Southlander. When everyone has the same idea when the wind goes sideways you have to be on the ball with what’s happening. I’d call it a hard day in the office.”
Things don’t get any easier tomorrow as the peloton braces itself for an assault on Coronet Peak, the dominant climb of the race and the stage which will sort out the true contenders in this year’s event.
Tactics will play a vital role, with teams striving to deliver their principal rider to the bottom of the 12km grunt in the best shape possible, Zenovich said.
“You get there and your legs are already sort of cooked because the road surface is so tough, but you’ve just got to take it how you can,” he said.
“We’ll do our best today to keep it status quo, If it’s another day like yesterday it would be in our favour with us not being pure climbers. We’ve got some cards to play with, having the sprint ace jersey as well. I’m a pretty honest bloke and I know there’s a chance I may lose (the yellow jersey), but I’m happy to wear it again.”
Tomorrow’s third Queenstown Flooring Xtra stage travels 138km from Mossburn to the Coronet Peak car park, finishing about 2.20pm.
HOME TOWN HERO TAKES OUT OPENING STAGE OF SBS BANK TOUR OF SOUTHLAND
29/10/18 - Matt Zenovich has produced a powerful performance to confirm his hometown hero status on the first stage of the 2018 SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
Zenovich (Placemakers) won a three man sprint up the main street of Lumsden to claim victory in the 170km stage from Invercargill, and ride his way into the yellow jersey for tomorrow’s stage from Riverton to Te Anau.
It’s the first time a Southlander has won a stage in New Zealand’s most prestigious bike race since Zenovich won in Te Anau in 2013, and the first time a Southlander has worn yellow since Cam Karwowski the same year.
And it was a deserved victory after Zenovich had worked hard all day to drive the break and to put himself into a position to contest the final furious sprint.
“At the start the team plan was just to relax because this is the longest stage of the tour and there’s a lot of long days to come, but me being me, I got a little bit excited and got into a breakaway about 50km in,” Zenovich said.
“I seized my opportunity with about 10km to go, didn’t get much help into the finish and I don’t have any idea how I managed to finish it off, but I’m happy about it.”
A Southlander hasn’t won the tour since Doug Bath managed the feat in 1994, while Zenovich’s stage win is just the second by a local since 2003.
“I know it’s a long straight from that last corner and it looks a lot shorter than it actually is. I’ve been trying to win this stage for four years and I always manage to muck it up. I just waited, I was patient and I managed to pull it off,” he said.
“I said before the stage yesterday that it was time for another Southlander to win a stage and I’m stoked it’s me, which is a bit selfish. Wearing yellow is like the icing on the cake, it just makes it that much sweeter.”
Zenovich was part of a four-man breakaway which had grown to a dozen by Nightcaps and included fellow Southlanders Corbin Strong and Josh Haggerty, with a lead approaching six minutes.
Efforts by the peloton to shut down the attack were hampered when they took a wrong turn after Nightcaps.
Oliver Martin was second on the stage, with United States rider Kevin Girkins (Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel) third and winner of the Most Combative honours, with Ethan Batt (WPC South-Joyride Apparel) leading the King of the Mountain standings.
Zenovich holds a slim 6sec lead over Martin, with Girkins 22sec in arrears.
Ollie Jones (PowerNet) leads the Sprint Ace standings, with team mate Connor Brown the leading under 23 rider and Paul Odlin the best of the over 35 riders.
WPC South-Joyride Apparel leads the teams classification.
Tomorrow’s stage takes the riders 150km from Riverton along the southern coast, and takes in the Blackmount hill climb before finishing on the Te Anau lakefront about 2pm.
POWERNET MAKE ELECTRIC START TO SBS BANK TOUR OF SOUTHLAND
28/10/18 - PowerNet have laid down the early challenge as the SBS Bank Tour of Southland got underway in Invercargill this afternoon.
The opening team time trial prologue around Queens Park was a chance for teams to stretch their legs and test their combinations ahead of a hard week of racing on the Southland bitumen.
PowerNet, who won the tour with Brad Evans in 2015, took out the 4.2km dart around the park with Cambridge’s Alex Heaney installed into the yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow’s Southland District Council 170km opening stage from Invercargill to Lumsden.
“The plan is the same as everyone, to go out and win, to have fun and ride a good race,” Heaney said.
WPC South-Joyride Apparel were second in the Riverside Rentals prologue, with Placemakers rounding out the podium in third place, while defending champion James Piccoli’s Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel was fifth, just under 10sec down.
Predicted to be one of the teams most capable of challenging Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel, Heaney said there was plenty to like about a PowerNet stable which includes Commonwealth Games mountainbiking gold medallist Sam Gaze.
“We are all even, we are all in the form of our lives. We’ve got a bit of everything - we’ve got a climber, we can go good in the sprints, we’ve got a good allround team.”
Wearing the tour leader’s yellow jersey for the opening stage would be a special moment, Heaney said.
“It’s real cool. It’s something that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life - it might be the first of many, it might be the last one, I don’t know, so I’ll just take it.”
Tomorrow’s opening stage heads away from the SIT Velodrome at 10am and traverses Thornbury, Otautau, Ohai and Nightcaps before travelling through Dipton and Castlerock and finishing in Lumsden at about 2.40pm.
The 62nd SBS Bank Tour of Southland finishes in Invercargill on November 3.
Results - Riverside Rentals Team Time Trial 4.2km: PowerNet 4:41.37s 1; WPC South-Joyride Apparel @4.55s2; Placemakers @4.88s 3.
DEFENDING CHAMP PRIMED FOR SBS BANK TOUR OF SOUTHLAND
26/10/18: Defending champion James Piccoli is a year older, but also a year wiser as he looks to win back-to-back titles at the 2018 SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
The popular Canadian has returned to the Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel team ready to take on a quality field which includes Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning mountainbiker Sam Gaze, world championship time trialler and team mate Hamish Bond and former New Zealand track star Dylan Kennett.
“(I’m) about a year older, smarter and wiser. I’ve been training hard, I feel good and I’m ready for this year’s race,” the 27-year-old said.
“I noticed that Michael Torckler, who I had a good battle with last year on Coronet, isn’t taking part, which is a shame. There’s some good talent in the field so we’ll be looking at certain guys as GC threats and looking to keep everything under control.”
In all, 108 riders from six countries will contest New Zealand’s longest-running and most prestigious stage race, which starts with the team time trial prologue around Queens Park on Sunday and finishes back in Invercargill’s Gala St the following Saturday.
Piccoli has arrived in Southland in good spirits after a solid year of campaigning.
“I’m lucky enough that this is my fulltime job, so I’ve had another year of living the dream. I’ve had some great experiences, some good results and got to know some cool people,” he said.
“After Southland last year I went home, took a bit of a break and started racing in March. I had some good results personally over the summer, including the Tour de Beauce, which I won. That was the first professional race I ever took part in so it was pretty cool to win that.”
With four riders returning to the team from last year’s victorious squad, and two other riders with previous experience of Southland conditions, Piccoli is not concerned about a forecast which looks somewhat different to last year.
“This year it’s looking like we are going to get true Southland weather. Last year we had beautiful sun and warm temperatures,” he said.
“The forecast looks like a proper tour and I’m looking forward to that, it’ll add another layer of difficulty if its windy or rainy. We welcome any challenges or difficulties at Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel because we’ve got a strong team.”
Tour director Bruce Ross, who will be taking part in his 49th lap of the province, is looking forward to a continuation of the close racing which has been a hallmark of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland in recent years.
“James Piccoli arrived here as a virtual unknown, to us at least, last year and rode away as a champion. We’ve got some of the best young riders in the country here in 2018 and a great representation of international riders. They’ll be hoping to do what James did last year and add another country to the winner’s trophy.”
COMM GAMES GOLD MEDALLIST TO RIDE TOUR OF SOUTHLAND
19/10/18 - Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning mountainbiker Sam Gaze is looking forward to a ‘hot lap’ of the province when he makes his debut in the SBS Bank Tour of Southland later this month.
The 22-year-old from Tokoroa is no stranger to road racing, but is better known for his exploits on knobbly tyres having twice won the world under 23 cross country title, along with silver and gold at the past two Commonwealth Games.
Unfortunately, a broken wrist and an injured ankle suffered during a World Cup practise run in Canada back in August forced a premature end to his mountainbike season.
“Growing up I would look at the Tour of Southland each year and think how cool it would be to ride that event one day and I’m really looking forward to doing a hot lap of Southland,” Gaze said.
“Most, if not all, of New Zealand’s best road riders have done the Tour of Southland at some point so it will be great to tick it off.”
Gaze will help form a competitive PowerNet team led by the experienced Paul Odlin.
While he is still building his strength following the crash in August, Gaze said he would take any opportunity that presented itself during the tour, which runs from October 28 to November 3.
“I don’t think I’ll have the power to really factor on the climbs, but if I’m in the mix for any of the sprint finishes I’ll definitely give it a go,” he said.
Gaze won the national criterium championships last year and has competed in the elite national road championships.
He will join the likes of defending champion James Piccoli and Hamish Bond on the start line for this year’s tour.
“Sam is a quality athlete and he’s going to be a great asset for the PowerNet team and really complement the team that we’ve put together,” team manager Aaron Sinclair said.
“PowerNet have been long-time supporters of the tour and we are proud to be involved again in 2018.”
HAMISH BOND SET TO RETURN
16/10/18 - His name is Bond, Hamish Bond - but it will be very much a cyclist, rather than an Olympic champion rower, who lines up for this year’s SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
The eight-time world and two-time Olympic rowing champion has targeted this year’s tour as another important building block towards his ultimate goal of representing New Zealand on the bike at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“The tour has given me something to keep me focussed and motivated in the short term, otherwise it would be easy to put the bike on the rack and enjoy being at home for a while. If I’m going to enter something I want to give the best account of myself that I can,” Bond said.
Bond previously rode New Zealand’s most prestigious cycle tour in 2009, before embarking on world domination in the Kiwi pair with Eric Murray, and again shortly after ending his rowing career with gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I think I consider myself a cyclist now, it’s fair to say that’s how I view myself at the moment. I feel a bit more confident in my ability and more aware of my ability - knowing what I can do and what I can expect from myself, which I think is quite important,” the 32-year-old said.
“It’s not quite love, hate, but the tour is a big challenge and I’m looking forward to taking another step up from where I was last time. When I came down last it was just after the Olympics and I’d only been cycling a month or so.”
Bond will be part of a strong Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel team headed by defending champion James Piccoli, from Canada.
He recently finished 25th in his specialist time trial event at the UCI world championships in Austria, improving on his 39th on debut in Norway the previous year.
“I was hitting my targets as I was riding and I hoped that that performance would have me a little higher up the leaderboard and I guess that was a reality of the depth and level of international cycling,” he said.
“The guys at the top are there for a reason and have honed their craft over a long time and I’m trying to get up there quite quickly. I guess the reality was that I’m still a way aways. I’m competitive, but to be truly challenging the top 10 or the podium, which is the ultimate of what I would dare to dream to achieve, there’s still a long way to go.”
Since coming home from Austria, Bond has spent more time on his road bike than his time trial machine and entered bunch races around the Waikato to reacquaint himself with the politics of the peloton.
He will draw on his experiences from the 2016 Tour of Southland, including knowing how to protect himself from the conditions after suffering badly on one particularly cold day.
“I really like an honest challenge and that’s what you get in Southland. I remember we had one cold day and I thought I would have revelled in that, but I hated it and when you are cold your morale can go out the door really quickly, but I think two years on I’m more prepared and can take advantage rather than wanting to get off my bike and go home.”
The stunning ascent up Coronet Peak and the short time trial on the final day loom as potential targets.
“I felt like I performed well last time up Coronet Peak, which is contrary to being 80kg plus, which most people consider an obstacle - I think obstacles are largely in the mind,” he said.
“Also the time trial is something I’ve been working on for a while now and feel as though it’s something that I’m relatively adept at on a national level, although this is something different given that it’s shorter and on road bikes.”
The 62nd edition of the Tour of Southland gets underway with the team time trial around Invercargill’s Queens Park on October 28, finishing back in Invercargill on November 3.
DEFENDING CHAMP RETURNING
13/9/18: Last year’s SBS Bank Tour of Southland cycling champion James Piccoli will be back in 2018 to defend his title.
The popular Canadian became just the fourth international winner of New Zealand’s most prestigious stage race when he claimed a 35sec win over Michael Vink in the tour finale on Gala St.
Tour director Bruce Ross was excited that Piccoli will be back in the racing colours of the Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel team.
“While Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel haven’t confirmed their full line up yet, we know they will have a strong squad to throw behind James in this year’s race,” Ross said.
“James was a worthy champion last year - he won the Bluff Hill climb and produced a superb solo effort to chase down a strong breakaway in the fifth stage. Aside from that he was also a great bloke off the bike and you could tell that he really loved his week here in Southland.”
Foreign riders have been prevalent in the SBS Bank Tour of Southland down through the years, but few have been able to come out on top in a battle against both the local riders and the local conditions.
Australians Mal Powell (1964) and Mitchell Lovelock-Fay (2014) and United States rider John Lieswyn (2002 and 2004) are the only other overseas riders who have claimed the tour’s yellow jersey since 1956.
With 2015 champion Brad Evans also a confirmed starter, and the possibility of other former winners also on the starting line come October 28, Ross is confident that some great racing will be in store.
“We’ve seen some very close racing in recent years and this is shaping up to be a very strong field. We’ve had some great interest from overseas teams and of course we will also have the best of New Zealand’s up and coming riders on show as well.”
The 2018 edition starts with the traditional team time trial around Invercargill’s Queens Park on October 28, followed by nearly 1000km of hard racing on the roads of Southland and Central Otago before a winner is crowned on Gala St on November 3.