Third straight tour victory beckons for Vink
Winning one SBS Bank Tour of Southland title is a major achievement for any cyclist. Defending tour champion Michael Vink is coming into the 2020 tour with his sights set on a third yellow jersey in as many years.
The first win was a long time coming, as Vink finished in the runner-up position twice before, just not able to gain the last couple of seconds needed to claim the title.
“It was so special to back up my title in 2019. I think having won the race in 2018, there was a bit of pressure, mostly from myself as I wanted to show it wasn't a fluke,” he said.
Only a very select few riders have won three tours in a row, all of them legends of the sport in New Zealand like Tino Tabak, Brain Fowler, and the most recent being Hayden Roulston. Vink knows how significant a third win will be, having grown up seeing Roulston as the king of the tour and a rider he always looked up to.
“I certainly don't see myself as a Roulston, Fowler or Tabak, but that doesn't mean I don't think I can win three in a row. Every year, every stage, it's just about putting your best foot forward as you never know when you might need to pull a rabbit out of a hat, so you have to be ready for anything. It's not about trying to win three in a row, but rather focusing on each battle to win the war,” he said.
This year Vink will be riding for the Transport Engineering – Talley’s team, which retains the core of riders and staff from his 2019 team.
Team sponsor Stephen Keast of Transport Engineering Southland said he was excited by the prospect of seeing Vink attempt to claim a third SBS Bank Tour of Southland title.
“The Tour is a special part of Southland’s sporting tradition - the community involvement is outstanding. As a sponsor we are thrilled to have Michael on board with the team, he is a class act and we are proud to be able to support him in his third attempt at the yellow jersey with a super strong and talented team,” he said.
For Vink, having a strong team is only part of the equation, with team culture being potentially even more important.
“We're very lucky to not only have a group of very classy bike riders, but also top guys that I would happily give the shirt off my back to. I think that's the difference between a good and a truly great team,” he said.
“I was especially proud of how the guys rode in 2019. Right from day one we had the team working on the front as everyone believed from the get go that I could get the job done. It wasn't all smooth sailing, but everyone kept the faith and when our opportunity came, we grabbed it with both hands.”
Team manager Brendan Akeroyd is also of the opinion that the title defence itself is secondary to the process.
“We haven’t even discussed the defense itself, we are just going into it the same as any other campaign. We know it is the focus, but we’re not putting any added pressure on ourselves than what is already there,” he said.
The SBS Bank Tour of Southland takes on a special significance this year, with so much of the racing season having been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and many riders unable to pursue racing overseas as they would traditionally have done.
“It makes the event huge, this is now the biggest race of the year for our local riders. It is really only a handful of riders, maybe six or seven World Tour riders that aren’t here, that have been requested to be overseas by their teams. I think the level of competition is actually going to be stronger than ever,” said Akeroyd.
For Vink, having the tour to look forward to has been key to saving his season.
“Most of my 2020 racing has been cancelled, so the SBS Bank Tour of Southland is really important as it gives me something to work towards. Without the tour, I would probably be a bit lost at this point in the season, but instead I'm focused and firing on all cylinders and I really can't wait to get back to racing come November,” he said.
For all the riders, a looming challenge will be the addition of the climb up The Remarkables as the big mountain day of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland. Vink is taking a philosophical approach to it, with his focus on the process.
“The Remarkables is obviously longer and steeper than Coronet Peak, but they are both long and tough climbs for the pure hill climbers to shine. I haven't ridden The Remarkables, but the approach to the stage remains the same - get to the bottom as fresh as possible, then get to the top first.”
The SBS Bank Tour of Southland takes place from 1 November to 7 November, starting with a team time trial around Queens Park in Invercargill.
Refreshed route to challenge SBS Bank Tour of Southland riders
Excitement is growing for this year’s edition of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland cycle race, with a refreshed route set to deliver exciting and unpredictable racing over the course of the week-long event. A number of high-profile New Zealand riders, including past winners of the race, have already indicated that they will be lining up when the tour kicks off in Invercargill on 1 November.
Race director Sally Marr said that although the current alert level status in New Zealand made for a tough environment for event organisers to operate in, she was confident that the event would be able to go ahead as planned, in no small part thanks to the return of most of the major sponsors of the event.
“We have been very fortunate to see the return of our naming rights sponsor, SBS Bank, as well as our long-running classification sponsors including Henderson Construction Limited, Jesco Hydraulics, Harcourts. Stonewood Homes, and Wensley’s Cycles. Without the ongoing support of these sponsors events like the SBS Bank Tour of Southland would not be able to go ahead,” she said.
The tour was also fortunate to have the continued support of community funders including the ILT Foundation, Community Trust South, Invercargill City Council, The Southern Trust, and the Lion Foundation.
“Many organisations and events are lining of for funding support in the wake of the lockdown, and we are truly honoured that they have seen their way clear to support the SBS Bank Tour of Southland again,” said Marr.
This year’s course sees a mix of traditional stages, with some in new slots within the tour, and some new twists to ensure the riders are kept on their toes.
The race will retain its traditional start with the Riverside Rentals team time trial prologue around Queens Park deciding the first yellow jersey of the tour, while also providing an excellent opportunity for spectators to see the riders up close and get to know the teams that will be ruling the roads of Southland for the next week.
The Mataura Licensing Trust Stage 1 will take riders on a 151km stage from Invercargill to Gore. Although this is one of the traditional, and often decisive, stages of the tour, it has usually featured as the fifth stage, with the new slot potentially changing the way teams will approach the stage.
The Distinction Hotels Stage 2 will take the riders from Riverton to Te Anau on a scenic but challenging 148km route, including the gruelling climb up Blackmount, but many riders will not want to go too deep on the day, knowing what is coming up on Stage 3.
One of the big talking points for this year’s race has been a change to the queen stage of the tour, the traditional name given to the stage featuring the highest mountain in the race. Unlike recent editions that have scaled the heights of Coronet Peak, this year the race will take on the fearsome slopes of the climb up to the Remarkables ski station. The new finishing climb also sees a new stage sponsor come on board, with The Southern Trust sponsoring Stage 3, which starts from Mossburn and winds its way along Lake Wakatipu before turning towards the slopes of the Remarkables for a 13km slog that is likely to be a major determining factor in the overall winner of the tour.
The BDO Invercargill Stage 4 will be a 157km stage from Invercargill finishing up the ridiculously steep gradients of Bluff Hill. There are some quite challenging climbs in the middle of the course as well, which makes it a fertile hunting ground for a breakaway, especially for riders who might have lost some time on the slog up the Remarkables the previous day.
The Southland District Council Stage 5 will be another familiar stage in an unfamiliar place in the tour, having traditionally been the first road stage of the event. It is the longest stage of the tour, at 170km, taking riders from Invercargill to Lumsden, and has built a reputation for the havoc that crosswinds can wreak on the peloton. With a couple of days of hard racing in their legs, the distance and conditions could combine to turn the tour on its head yet again.
The final day of the tour, Saturday 7 November, will see a split stage, with the McConachie Shearing Stage 6 individual time trial in Winton over 13km, giving specialists the opportunity to make up some time on their rivals.
The Ascot Park Hotel Stage 7 wraps up the tour with a 77km race from Winton back to Invercargill, finishing with laps around Queens Park and a big final sprint, followed by the presentation of the final classification jerseys – the SBS Bank Tour of Southland yellow jersey for the race winner, the Henderson Construction Limited pink jersey for the best under 23 rider, the Harcourts Sprint Ace jersey for the top sprinter, the Jesco Hydraulics King of the Mountain jersey for the top climber, the Stonewood Homes silver jersey for the best rider 35 and over, and the Wensley’s Cycles team classification for the best team on the overall.
The event will also feature a new jersey and sponsor this year, with more information to be revealed in the near future.
Marr said she was very happy with the response received to this year’s course.
“The climb up the Remarkables has certainly got riders talking – the climb is an unknown to many, as it is only fairly recently that it has been paved, and the last couple of kilometres are still over gravel, which adds an even greater challenge to what will likely be the decisive stage of this year’s tour,” she said.
Photo: Michael Vink (Placemakers) won the SBS Bank Tour of Southland title in 2019. Photo credit: James Jubb
Excitement builds for 2020 SBS Bank Tour of Southland
The SBS Bank Tour of Southland is all set for 2020. Entries for the event, which will take place from 1 to 7 November, opened this week, and there is already significant interest.
Race Director Sally Marr said there was a real buzz around this year’s edition of the event.
“Lockdown has been tough on cyclists, with many events cancelled, and they are keen to salvage their season with a big showing in a major event,” she said.
Many top cyclists have also been unable to travel to Europe or the United States where they would usually be racing this time of year, which also makes them very keen to measure themselves against the best competition possible.
“With the impact on the international cycling season, we are quietly confident that this year’s SBS Bank Tour of Southland may see one of the strongest New Zealand fields the race has played host to in many years,” said Marr.
The 2020 edition of the event will also bring about some innovations, with the Queen stage of the race set to take on a new climb this year.
“Over the last couple of years, the big mountain stage of the tour has taken riders up Coronet Peak. This year the riders will be racing up the Remarkables instead. These mountains are an iconic part of the landscape, and it promises to be a tough new challenge for the riders,” said Marr.
It is only more recently that the road up to the ski station has been sealed, turning it into a potential Tour of Southland stage finish. Although the first ten kilometres of the road has been sealed, the final three kilometres of the road is still unsealed.
“Changes in the route always generate some renewed interest, even more so when it introduces a challenging new climb which the riders may not have raced on before,” said Marr.
Title sponsor SBS Bank is also returning to the tour this year, underlining the importance of the event to the region.
SBS Bank chief executive Shaun Drylie said he was looking forward to seeing live sport return to Southland, and was pleased the bank was again partnering with Cycling Southland to produce the Tour.
“With COVID-19 causing disruption right across the sporting world, it’s important that events like the SBS Bank Tour of Southland can continue. The race showcases the province on a national and international stage, so it will be fantastic to see riders racing across Southland trying to claim the coveted title.
“It’s also heartening to see the community engagement and volunteer involvement continuing with this great race and we’re delighted to again be involved – and looking forward to seeing how the riders adjust to the course changes.”
Although overseas participation may not be possible this year with continued border closures, Marr is confident that this will not prove too much of a challenge for the event.
“Although we would love to have cyclists from Australia and other parts of the world taking part, with the depth of talent in New Zealand cycling we can still look forward to a highly competitive event. However, if things change and we will be able to welcome international riders by November, we would of course be thrilled.”
The SBS Bank Tour of Southland will take place from 1 to 7 Novembers. The prologue time trial will take place in Invercargill, with first stage taking riders from Invercargill to Gore. The second stage will depart from Riverton as riders make their way to Te Anau, before the decisive third stage from Mossburn to the Remarkables. The fourth stage will start from Invercargill and finish on the fearsome slopes of Bluff Hill, while the fifth stage will take riders from Invercargill to Lumsden. The final day features two stages, starting with the sixth stage individual time trial in Winton in the morning, before the seventh and final stage from Winton to Invercargill, where the winner of the 2020 edition of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland will be crowned on Gala Street.
Cantabrian Michael Vink has won back-to-back SBS Bank Tour of Southland titles. The first rider to successfully defend his title since Hayden Roulston in 2008, Vink (Placemakers) finished third in this morning’s individual time trial and controlled the front of the race over the final 77km stage from Winton to Invercargill to win by 2min 38sec from PowerNet rider Alex Heaney, with Hamish Schreurs third overall at 4min 23sec.
Stage 6 - Vink leads Tour into final stage
Defending champion Michael Vink will take a handy lead into the final stage of the 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
Defending champion Michael Vink has put himself within grasp of a second SBS Bank Tour of Southland title after a stunning ride by his Placemakers team on the penultimate day of the race’s 63rd edition.
Mexcican rider Eder Frayre has produced a second impressive climbing performance as the 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland’s yellow jersey settles a little more securely onto his shoulders.
The 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland’s first Mexican rider has made an emphatic statement at the midway point of this year’s race. Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel rider Eder Frayre holds a 28sec lead over Southland’s Corbin Strong, with defending champion Michael Vink trailing by 33sec after today’s Queen stage, the 138km beat from Mossburn to the top of Coronet Peak, near Queenstown.
World omnium champion Cambell Stewart has sprinted his way into the yellow jersey in his debut SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
The 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland’s opening road stage has provided a genuine test for the 108-rider field. Australian teenager Jensen Plowright eventually took stage honours in a select sprint down the main street of Lumsden after a challenging 170km stage, the longest of this year’s race.
Defending champion Michael Vink’s Placemakers team has put the rest of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland peloton on notice with a confident display in today’s prologue in stunning conditions in Invercargill.
La'chlan Robertson ready for his first Tour of Southland
You can be forgiven if at first glance you struggle to pick out the young pup of the 2019 Tour of Southland.
At close to two metres tall La'chlan Robertson can be opposing looking figure on the bike.
The reality though, Robertson is just 18-years-old and is one of the youngest to sign on for this year's SBS Tour of Southland. Arguably New Zealand's most prestigious and gruelling road cycling race.
It was only in March this year when Robertson started to take road cycling seriously. He switched his focus from the track to the road after just missing qualification for the Junior World Track Cycling Championships.
Robertson acknowledges this year's Tour, which starts with the team time trial on Sunday, will be a learning experience for him.
Although he doesn't plan to just go along for the ride during the seven days and be content with finishing.
"I want to be active during the race, not just sitting in the bunch rolling around for 900kms. That's not racing.
"I'd rather go out attacking and not finish than sit in the bunch and finish 110th on [general classification]. That's just not how I ride.
"I will be looking to be active if a few of the stages. The Bluff and Coronet Peak stages might tough, ridding up hills doesn't go well for me."
The Southern Institute of Technology student was initially eyeing a place in a New Zealand performance hub team put together by Cycling New Zealand, however the team was withdrawn.
"It was really unfortunate because we had some really good guys in our team, we had junior world champions and it would have been a solid team."
It meant Robertson went searching for plan B and he landed it through a spot in the SiS-Santini-WA team - a team made up of five Western Australia riders, and Southland's Robertson.
Robertson didn't want the Tour of Southland to be his first big elite stage race which prompted the trip to New Caledonia.
The Academy Southland programme athlete returned to Invercargill this week after taking part in the Tour of New Caledonia.
Leading French amateur riders, as well as a professional team from Italy, took part in the tour and Robertson was thrilled with a sixth-place finish on the final stage of the tour.
It ticked off a quest for a 10th place finish, a goal which he now concedes was ambitious.
"It is was a real big step up for me. When I got over there I thought, 'oh, I've overestimated with my goals'. But I think in the end it was a good learning experience and got that top 10 in the final stage."
The 36 degree-plus heat he had to contend with in New Caledonia is expected to much different to the race conditions he has ahead of him Southland.
Eighteen teams with just over 100 riders will take part in this year's Tour.
It starts with the 4.2km team time trial around Queens Park in Invercargill on Sunday at 4.30pm, with the last team scheduled to depart at 4.48pm.
On Monday the riders will race from Invercargill to Lumsden, via Tuatapere and Winton.
The Tour of Southland winner will be crowned on the seventh and final stage on Saturday when riders race from Winton to Queens Park in Invercargill.
Big boots to fill for newly appointed SBS Tour of Southland director
Outgoing Cycling Southland president Reece McDonald admits to both nerves and excitement as one of Southland's most prestigious sporting events gets a new leader.
Cycling Southland has appointed Sally Marr (nee Hayes) as the organisation's new major events co-ordinator, with her key task being the role of SBS Tour of Southland race director.
Marr will take over from Bruce Ross who has been at the helm of New Zealand's premier road cycling race for the past 30 years and involved for 50 years in total.
Ross will remain in charge for November's race, and will also stay on at Cycling Southland until March, which would allow a transition period for Marr who will start with Cycling Southland on September 9.
Ross has been the key figure behind the success of the Tour of Southland during the past 50 years and McDonald acknowledged the search for a replacement had been intense given the importance of the decision.
He said the process started almost 18 months ago with former Cycling Southland general manager Mark Hotton and it had continued with Nicola Wills when she stepped into the position.
"Being in charge of finding a replacement for Bruce, it's mind-numbing. We thought, 'how do you even do that'?" McDonald said.
"Bruce and the Ross family have been so important [for The Tour of Southland], it has been the Ross roadshow.
"It's a big change, it's exciting but a bit nervous as well."
McDonald was delighted that they had been able to find a replacement of the calibre of Marr.
Marr previously worked at Sport Southland as an events adviser, where she also worked as an accreditation adviser for the UCI Junior World Track Cycling Champs in 2012.
Marr then moved into the role of major events co-ordinator with Venture Southland.
She has been assistant race director for Challenge Wanaka for the last three years and course manager for Ironman NZ for the last year.
Marr has recently worked in Canterbury as Netball Mainland's events and business relationship manager at Netball Mainland.
Marr will become the Tour's first female race director which comes a short time after Cycling Southland appointed a female general manager in Wills.
The appointments came at a time when Sport NZ had been vocal about its desire to have more females in sporting leadership roles.
McDonald said it did align to what Sport NZ was pushing for but he added the appointment of Marr and Wills was because they were standouts for the job.
Meanwhile, McDonald will stand down from the Cycling Southland president's role at its next board meeting on Monday, although he will remain on the board.
Article courtesy Stuff
50 years in the making - the legend of Tour director Bruce Ross
In the lexicon of cycling, Bruce Ross will do one final ‘lap on the front’ as race director for the 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland before sitting in the back of the bunch for future races.
It’s the end of an era. Bruce remembers watching stage finishes in Bluff as a young child, he joined the tour as a judge in 1970, began his role as race director in 1985 and will step away after November having completed what he calls a 50-year ‘apprenticeship’.
But Bruce is adamant that the show will go on. All the elements that have helped knit the tour into the fabric of our community remain intact, ready for a fresh set of eyes to build on what is considered New Zealand’s most prestigious stage race.
“It’s time to hand over the reins to a suitable successor,” Bruce told SouthlandSport.com.
“I have seen many changes throughout my involvement with the event, having seen the tour evolve initially from a three-day event through to its present day standing as a seven-day race. Throughout this time, the tour has seen the development of many outstanding champions, with current international riders such as George Bennett, Dion Smith and Jack Bauer, plus many others, all having learnt their trade at the Tour of Southland.”
Cycling Southland general manager Nicola Wills said maintaining and building on the success of the tour was a priority for the organisation.
“Ensuring continuity and the future success of the iconic Tour of Southland is paramount,” she said.
“Cycling Southland is currently finalising the succession plan for the Race Director role and will be announcing very shortly the details of that process.”
Bruce plans to join the large group of volunteers upon which the tour relies.
“The tour will continue to be successful long into the future. It receives excellent support throughout the region and I am confident that the relationships which have been developed between Cycling Southland and the community over many years will ensure the event’s ongoing success.
“I believe that the community is extremely proud of this iconic event and want it to continue to be successful. The fact that I’m finishing as race director does not mean the Tour of Southland will lose any of its lustre or professionalism – new personnel can bring new ideas and I would certainly welcome and encourage that.”
SBS Bank GM Development Phil Jamieson was full of praise for the work that Bruce had undertaken in developing the Southland-based race into such an iconic event of national and international importance.
“The 2019 race will be the seventh that we’ve been the naming rights sponsor for. Since getting involved in 2013, we’ve watched it grow in popularity to the point that there’s no doubt it’s the best multi-stage cycle race in the country.
“Our partnership with Cycling Southland is a key plank of our Southland community relations programme and we’re looking forward to seeing how it continues to evolve in the future,” he said.
“The race is closely connected to our goals of promoting wellness through being active, as well as connecting with the wider Southland community.”
Those involved in the tour understand the role that Bruce’s family has played.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have had such a supportive family who have assisted me greatly throughout my tenure as race director, without this support I would not have been able to continue for the time that I have,” Bruce said.
“I stopped short of having ‘mandatory tour assistance’ written into our wedding vows, but Pam has been understanding and always been there as my right-hand person. Twin daughters Suzanne and Amy have grown up with the Tour of Southland and began helping from the time they could walk. They provide outstanding support and, while their roles may change, I am sure they will continue to assist in some manner.
“We’ve made some minor changes for this year’s course due to logistical reasons. The course we’ve used for the past couple of years is a very good one. It’s provides opportunities for different styles of riders and has produced close finishes, with the result often in the balance on the final stage into Gala St. As a race director and promoter, you can’t ask for more than that.”