This weekend features Cycling Southland’s 2011 edition of the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland. Over recent years this event has developed into one of the premier junior tours in Australasia and this year more than 180 riders including 40 from across the Tasman take on the highways of the south.
The Yunca Tour also marks the final round in the National Points Series for the Under-19 and Under-17 grades and will define who claims the honour of Series Champion. Otago’s Patrick Jones, Wakatipu’s Tom Vessey and Te Awamutu’s Scott Creighton all have a chance to leap to the top of the standings in the Under 19 Men with a Tour victory.
The Under 17 categories promise to deliver the most action, largely due to the size of the fields – 49 boys and 34 girls. Wakatipu’s Liam Aitcheson takes a slim ten point lead into the race and after Tour wins in the last two rounds in Timaru and Dunedin has excellent form behind him. With 100 points up for grabs for the Tour winner another six starters all have mathematical chance of earning the title, including Cycling Southland’s Josh Haggerty. Meanwhile Devon Hiley from Counties-Manukau has the Under 17 girls title banked with the late withdrawal due to injury of her closest rival.
In many respects the Under 15 and Under 13 categories are some of the most important. For many of the riders in this category it is one of their first experiences of multi-stage cycling events and a major milestone in their development as bike riders.
The Yunca Tour begins on Friday at Teretonga Raceway with Individual Time Trials from 11am and afternoon stage races starting from 1.30. I’d really encourage you to get out and take a look on Friday. It’s a wonderful venue for watching racing and you’ll see the entrants riding individually and in bunches over the course of the day. Saturday’s attention switches to Te Tipua for morning and afternoon stages, before Sunday sees the race culminate with a morning inner-city criterium (more great viewing) starting in Tay Street from 8.30am with the final stage at Mabel Bush to decide the yellow jerseys on Sunday afternoon.
We give ourselves next Monday off before getting straight in to our annual October Track Carnival next week (Tuesday 18th to Thursday 20th). This year features the ILT Trans Tasman Junior Challenge over the first two nights of racing along with the National Elite Omnium Championships. The best Junior talent compete for Trans Tasman bragging rights while the top elite endurance track riders in the land take a vital step towards Olympic selection right in our own back yard. Then we’ll wrap it up next Thursday with Carnival racing, from Under 13s to Open riders, including the Elite Sprint stars, fresh from this weekend’s racing in Sydney. Event passes are just $20 or $10 a night for adults and $5 for students. A great couple of weeks on road and track - we’ll see you out there.
Nick Jeffrey is Chief Executive of Cycling Southland