30/10/2022 - Commonwealth Games silver medallist Ben Oliver has earned first use of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland’s yellow jersey after an impressive ride on day one.
The 25-year-old, who finished second behind compatriot Sam Gaze in the cross country mountainbike in Birmingham earlier this year, capped an outstanding day for his CreationSigns-MitoQ team at the start of his fifth lap of the south.
After his team won their first ever 4.2km team time trial prologue around Invercargill’s Queens Park, he was able to get himself into the decisive break along with eventual winner Glenn Haden (Couplands-Booths Group) during the 42km stage one street race around thesame circuit.
“It’s a bit of a surprise getting the yellow on day one, but I can’t complain, what a way to end the afternoon,” Oliver said.
“We just had to be aware of who was going up the road and made sure that we followed the moves. I got myself into a pretty solid one with (Matt Zenovich) and Glenn and a few of the other boys. We got a decent gap, went for the time bonus sprints and we held it to the line, so happy with the way it played out.”
Haden has been a prominent rider in the silver classification for riders over 35 years of age during recent Southland tours, but was ecstatic to take a stage victory.
“This is a dream come true. A few of the boys have been saying to me that this year I should just have a go and that’s what I did,” he said.
While Oliver has been a mainstay of the MitoQ-NZ Cycling Project stable as a mountainbiker, he’s excited to get another chance to join his team mates on skinny tyres.
“It’s my first road race with (the team) this year, they’ve been over in America smashing it out while I’ve been on the mountainbike circuit. The boys had three months overseas showing what they can do and now I’ve joined them for the biggest race of the year,” the Rangiora native said.
“To get the team time trial is always special, what a way to start the tour. We are just going to go all out, it will be more of the same tomorrow.”
Oliver, who holds a 7sec lead over second-placed Haden overall, should feel at home for at least part of tomorrow’s 166km second stage from Invercargill to Lumsden, which features a testing gravel hillclimb over the Glenure Hill.
It’s the same stage that eventual winner Michael Vink, who is gunning for a fourth title in five years, stamped his mark on last year’s race.
The 2023 SBS Bank Tour of Southland is celebrating its 66th edition and continues through until Saturday, November 5.