Aucklander Aaron Gate has added the 2016 SBS Bank Tour of Southland to his impressive list of accomplishments.
However, it was the disappointment of a fourth-placed finish at the Rio Olympics which provided the backdrop to his win in Southland this week.
Gate, a bronze medalist in the team pursuit at the London Olympics and a world omnium champion, said the excitement of contesting a third Tour of Southland had provided the motivation he needed after missing out on a medal in Rio in August.
After avoiding his bike in the weeks after the Olympics, he got back into training with Southland firmly in his sights.
“I stupidly told James Canny, our team manager, that I’d be up to try and have a crack at the title and he started to get quite excited and so did the other boys. To come away with this jersey is beyond words,” Gate said.
“It’s such an awesome race, like I’ve said before, the amount of community support that gets in behind it and the work by tour director Bruce Ross, it gets bigger and bigger each year and there are more internationals coming out to experience what it’s all about.”
Gate earned his tour victory with two massive breakaways on the Bluff Hill and Coronet Peak stages.
“That would be right up there with two of the hardest days I’ve had on the bike, and to do them back-to-back, I was a bit fatigued this morning,” he said.
“I managed to limit my losses in the time trial to my main rivals and then had the support of the team on the stage into Queens Park.”
Gate (Creation Signs-L&M Group Ricoh) started the final 77km stage from Winton to Invercargill with a 2min 40sec lead over Michael Vink (Mike Greer Homes), who took out the morning’s 13km individual time trial in Winton.
Despite Gate’s big lead there was still some drama on the final stage, with a big crash involving about 20 riders early in the stage.
The main contenders were unaffected by the crash, as they barreled towards Invercargill at 50kmh.
Alex Frame (Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel) took stage honours after three final laps of Queens Park, with Gate winning by 2min 40sec from Vink and Dutchman Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (PowerNet) capping a strong tour with a third placing, 3min 21sec in arrears.
Four-time winner Hayden Roulston (Placemakers) was fourth overall and winner of the Most Combative honours on the final stage, with fifth-placed Australian Ayden Toovey (Tineli Performance Bikewear) the leading under 23 rider.
Olympic rower Hamish Bond (Vantage Windows & Doors) finished an impressive eighth overall.
Southland’s Nick Kergozou won the sprint classification and Fraser Hewett (Placemakers) was the leading over 35 rider.
Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel won the teams classification and Tim Rush (Mike Greer Homes) won the King of the Mountains classification.
Kergozou also won the Grant Toomey Memorial Trophy as the highest-placed Southlander on the final stage and Matt Zenovich (PowerNet) was confirmed as the highest placed Southlander overall, finishing in 12th place overall.
Aaron Gate talks about winning the 2016 SBS Bank Tour of Southland https://soundcloud.com/user-954086242/ws452566wma
Pic caption - courtesy of James Jubb/Envious Photography