Date: Thursday, 19 January 2017

There will be plenty of banter in the Strong family household in the lead up to this week's Cycling Southland New Year series.

The family will be well represented in the Stonewood Homes Gore to Invercargill Classic cycle race on Thursday.

While Alan Strong, 49, has been riding in the event since the 1980s, it will be the first time he will compete against both of his sons Hayden, 19 and Corbin,16, in the 67km race.

Vicki Giles was the first woman to win the Gore to Invercargill Road Classic cycle race in 1986 ahead of Alan Strong, right, while Dick Harris finished third.

Both Hayden and Corbin are established representative riders, with Corbin who is a rising star of New Zealand cycling starting in his first Gore to Invercargill Classic.

"I'm pretty excited to be competing rather than sitting at the finish watching," Corbin said.

The experienced Alan, on the other hand claimed second place in the 1986 race behind the first female winner Vicki Giles, and will start in front of the teenagers in the handicap event.

The two stronger Strong riders will most likely start from towards the back of the field in the handicap race, while B Grade rider Alan will be closer to the front.

"When they were B graders, they weren't there too long. I would be able to foot it with them, but not in recent years," Alan Strong said.

"I wouldn't give myself much chance against them, depending on the handicapping."

The forecasted windy weather is set to favour the stronger riders.  

"It definitely favours the backmarkers, the stronger riders will come through more times than not in the rough weather and the wind especially," Alan said.

"The faster, stronger riders will make up more time than the weaker front riders will start to struggle earlier."

Interestingly Hayden rode his father's 1980s bike in the Ascot Park criterium as part of last year's New Year series, but according to Alan there won't be much competition to ride the bright yellow Thunderbird 3 in the event.

"Yeah it was one of my older bikes," Alan Strong said.

"That has very old manual gearing on the down tubes."

While there might be a private battle between the Strong family, there will be significant pressure from the rest of the 50-strong field seeking victory.

New Zealand's longest running club classic, in its 87th year, has increased its prize money to $1000, with $500 going to the winner and $500 for the rider with the fastest time.

Matt Zenovich will be another Southland cyclist looking to capture the prize money on offer, after he took out the fastest time trophy last year and will be looking to claim that plus first over the line to claim the $1000 on offer.

Previous winners include 2015 Tour of Southland winner Brad Evans (2014), Marc Ryan (2008 and 2011), Dylan Kennett (2012) and Greg Henderson (1998).

Riders from throughout the South Island will be entered in the race, along with various other events as part of the New Year series.

Last year's winner Brent Spencer, from Christchurch, has registered to defend the title, but history isn't on his side, with no rider successfully defending their title since Ray O'Connor in 1945.

It's a bumper weekend for cycling in Southland, with the ILT New Year Track Carnival on Friday and Saturday nights from 6.30pm, and the Ascot Park Hotel Criterium on Sunday.

At a glance

What: Gore to Invercargill Road Classic cycle race

Where: Gore Town and Country Club start; Racecourse Road, Invercargill outside Ascot Park Raceway finish.

When: 6pm start and finish by 8pm.

Photo and article courtesy Stuff
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