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.