A REFRESHED Tour of Southland route is set to deliver exciting and unpredictable racing during the week-long event, organisers say.
Several high-profile New Zealand riders, including past winners of the race, have already indicated they’ll be lining up when the tour kicks off in Invercargill on November 1.
Race director Sally Marr said although current alert level status in New Zealand made for a tough environment for event organisers to operate in, she was confident the event would be able to go ahead as planned, thanks to the return of most of the major sponsors of the event.
“Without the ongoing support of these sponsors, events like the SBS Bank Tour of Southland would not be able to go ahead,” she said.
“Many organisations and events are lining up 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,” Marr said.
This year’s course sees a mix of traditional stages, combined with new slots and some new twists to ensure the riders were kept on their toes.
The race would retain its traditional start with the team time trial prologue around Queens Park in Invercargill deciding the first yellow jersey of the tour, while also providing an excellent opportunity for spectators to see the riders up close.
Stage one would take riders on a 151km stage from Invercargill to Gore. Although it was 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 would approach the stage.
Stage two would begin in Riverton with riders cycling to Te Anau on a scenic but challenging 148km route, including the gruelling climb up Blackmount.
One of the big changes to this year’s race has been the queen stage of the tour, the traditional name given to the stage featuring the highest mountain in the race.
Unlike recent editions which scaled the heights of Coronet Peak, this year cyclists would take on the fearsome slopes of the climb up to the Remarkables ski station.
The new finishing climb at Stage three would start from Mossburn and wind its way along Lake Wakatipu before turning towards the slopes of the Remarkables for a 13km slog which was likely to be a major determining factor in the overall winner.
Stage four would be a 157km stage from Invercargill finishing up the steep gradients of Bluff Hill.
There were some quite challenging climbs in the middle of the course as well.
Stage five, having traditionally been the first road stage of the event, would be the longest stage of the tour, at 170km, taking riders from Invercargill to Lumsden. This stage has built a reputation for the havoc that crosswinds can wreak on the peloton.
The final day of the tour, on November 7, will see a split stage, with the Stage six individual time trial in Winton over 13km, giving specialists the opportunity to make up some time on their rivals.
Stage seven 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 of Southland yellow jersey for the race winner, the pink jersey for the best under-23 rider, the Sprint Ace jersey for the top sprinter, the King of the Mountain jersey for the top climber, the silver jersey for the best rider 35 and over, and the team classification for the best team overall.
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. 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.