The likely inclusion of five-time Olympian Greg Henderson for his cycling swansong in the field for the 2017 Tour of Southland has administrators excited.
The 40-year-old expert lead-out rider recently completed the Tour of California, where he finished 25th for his United Healthcare team, 14 minutes behind general classification winner George Bennett and he is looking to return to New Zealand for October's Tour of Southland.
"I am thinking of it being my retirement race," he said.
While the race is five months away, the inclusion of a rider of Henderson's quality would be a major coup for organisers, a year after another Kiwi legend, Hayden Roulston, returned for his final tilt at the Tour of Southland, before he retired.
Cycling Southland general manager Mark Hotton was delighted at the prospect of having Henderson back racing in Southland later in the year.
"He's been a fantastic supporter of the Tour over the years and has won something like 16 stages – but never managed to secure the yellow jersey. He's certainly helped the likes of Hayden Roulston to victory in the past, so it will interesting to see the shape and calibre of the team he can put together," he said.
Henderson won his first stage in 2003 and claimed the overall points classification jersey in 2004, while he last competed in 2010.
"He's always had aspirations of winning the race, but it's obviously a challenge to be in peak physical form for the European season and then get back here to race."
"It would awesome to have someone who has competed in the Tour de France and taken part in some seriously challenging bike races across the globe – and done extremely well in them too – taking part, not just for the Tour of Southland, but for cycling in Southland."
"Having someone of that calibre lining up against some of our rising talent would be superb and a real boost to our younger riders looking to emulate what he's done."
Once he finishes racing, Henderson will link up with the Malaysian track team in a coaching role, to help prepare them for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Article courtesy Stuff, photo Graham Watson Fairfax