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 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 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.
Photo: The PowerNet team on the way to winning the SBS Bank Tour of Southland prologue around Invercargill’s Queens Park. Photo: James Jubb/Studio Jubb