Canadian James Piccoli has become just the fourth foreign rider to win the SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
New Zealand’s most prestigious stage race has attracted many fine overseas riders in its 61 year history, but it’s proven a tough event to crack with its tough conditions and a general reluctance by the Kiwis to allow the trophy to head offshore.
Few could argue that Piccoli did not deserve the victory, however, after a stage win on Bluff Hill and a strong ride to bridge a one minute gap on the way to Gore on Friday, along with some great team support by his Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel cohort.
Piccoli’s results this year include top 10 finishes at the Tour of Alberta and the Tour of Utah., but victory in Southland ranks right up there, he said.
“It’s a pretty cool win. I’ve got to say that the Tour of Southland has been an amazing experience, from the team and the atmosphere, the fans on the road and the coverage has been amazing,” Piccoli said.
“I heard that the Tour of Southland was a super unpredictable race and it could be won or lost at any moment, and that’s what makes it exciting. It came down to the wire today.”
Piccoli started the final 77km stage from Winton to Invercargill with a 35sec lead over Michael Vink (Mike Greer Homes), with Michael Torckler (Blindz Direct) still a faint hope at 1min 10sec.
Vink had pulled back 3sec on Piccoli when he won the 13km individual time trial stage in Winton during the morning to set up a nervous final beat to the Gala St finish.
“I have to admit that everyone threw everything they had at me,” Piccoli said.
“It felt like the whole peloton was trying to crack me but I had the support of all of Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel.”
Teammate Taylor Gunman, who won the second stage from Riverton to Te Anau, proved a brilliant road captain for Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel, who also claimed the team classification.
“This is a guy who won a stage and is capable of winning the whole tour, so to have him riding just for me is super humbling and it’s super nice to take home the win for him especially,” Piccoli, who also took out the King of the Mountains classification, said.
The final stage came down to a photo finish, with Germany’s Raphael Freienstein (Aardvark Excavators Ltd) just edging out Brad Evans (PowerNet) on the line and Alex Ray (Wheelworks Handcrafted Wheels) finishing third.
Piccoli finished in the trailing bunch to win by 35sec overall from Vink, with Michael Torckler third at 1min 10sec.
Alex West (Team Skoda Racing) was the leading under 23 rider, finishing sixth overall, while Paul Odlin, who was third in the morning time trial, was the fastest over 35 rider, finishing 11th.
Alex Ray produced an aggressive final stage to take over the Sprint Ace classification, while Ben Robertson (TotalPos Solutions) won the Most Combative honours for the final stage.
New Zealand track endurance rider Nick Kergozou won the Grant Toomey Memorial Trophy as the first Southlander across the line in Gala St. He was also the highest placed Southland rider overall, finishing in 18th place overall.
SBS Tour of Southland Results from the 8th stage of the SBS Tour of Southland.
Winton – Browns – Myross Bush – Invercargill
1. Raphael Freienstein (AVE) 1h36m55s; 2. Brad Evans (PNL) ST; 3. Alexander Ray (WWS) ST; 4.
Logan Griffin (TGB) at 35s; 5. Paul Odlin (PNL) at 35s; 6. Nick Kergozou (PMK) at 42s; 7. Joseph
Swale (CBW) at 44s; 8. Mike Cuming (AVE) at 44s; 9. Callum Pearce (MGH) at 44s; 10. Kane
Richards (ITM) at 44s; 11. Jason Thomason (BZD) at 44s; 12. Sam Mobberley (ITM) at 44s; 13.
Michael Vink (MGH) at 44s; 14. James Piccoli (KAP) at 44s; 15. Matt Ross (PNL) at 44s; 16. Michael
Torckler (BZD) at 44s; 17. Taylor Gunman (KAP) at 44s; 18. James Fouche (CLM) at 44s; 19. Alex
West (TSR) at 44s; 20. Mathew Zenovich (MGH) at 56s; 21. Jakob Lester (PMK) at 01m50s; 22. Ollie
Jones (PNL) at 01m50s; 23. Roman Van Uden (PNL) at 01m50s; 24. Liam Cappel (ACA) at 01m50s;
25. Nicholas Costello (ITM) at 01m50s;
1. James Piccoli (KAP) 20h15m15s; 2. Michael Vink (MGH) at 35s; 3. Michael Torckler (BZD) at
01m10s; 4. Raphael Freienstein (AVE) at 02m10s; 5. Brad Evans (PNL) at 03m21s; 6. Alex West
(TSR) at 04m10s; 7. Taylor Gunman (KAP) at 04m35s; 8. James Fouche (CLM) at 04m42s; 9. Sam
Mobberley (ITM) at 05m25s; 10. Ryan Christensen (KAP) at 06m30s; 11. Paul Odlin (PNL) at
06m59s; 12. Jake Marryatt (CST) at 07m09s; 13. Kane Richards (ITM) at 07m37s; 14. Mike Cuming
(AVE) at 08m16s; 15. Boris Clark (CST) at 08m36s; 16. Andy Hagan (WWS) at 09m27s; 17. Ben
Andrews (AVE) at 09m39s; 18. Nick Kergozou (PMK) at 09m53s; 19. Tim Rush (MGH) at 10m14s;
20. Richard Randall (GLS) at 10m29s; 21. Carne Groube (CBW) at 10m54s; 22. Matt Ross (PNL) at
11m33s; 23. Campbell Pithie (ITM) at 11m55s; 24. Cyrus Monk (KAP) at 12m35s; 25. Roman Van
Uden (PNL) at 12m43s;
1. Kia Motors – Ascot Park Hotel 60h57m00s; 2. Aardvark Excavators Ltd at 04m11s; 3. Powernet at
05m04s; 4. Mike Greer Homes at 12m33s; 5. ITM at 13m41s; 6. Team Skoda Racing at 14m47s; 7.
Calder Stewart at 21m14s; 8. Wheelworks Handcrafted Wheels at 28m40s; 9. Blindz Direct at
28m53s; 10. Giant Lakeside at 33m52s;
1. Alexander Ray (WWS) 43; 2. James Williamson (CLM) 33; 3. Morgan Smith (AVE) 23; 4. Raphael
Freienstein (AVE) 21; 5. Paul Wright (CBW) 19; 6. Michael Vink (MGH) 17; 7. James Fouche (CLM)
16; 8. Mathew Zenovich (MGH) 15; 9. Mike Cuming (AVE) 12; 10. Matt Ross (PNL) 12;
King of Mountains
1. James Piccoli (KAP) 29; 2. Logan Griffin (TGB) 28; 3. Ben Barry (CLM) 26; 4. Michael Torckler
(BZD) 16; 5. Michael Vink (MGH) 13; 6. Andy Hagan (WWS) 10; 7. Brendan Cole (ITM) 8; 8. Joshua
Scott (CLM) 8; 9. Florian Barket (TSR) 8; 10. Alexander Ray (WWS) 8;