In the lexicon of cycling, Bruce Ross will do one final ‘lap on the front’ as race director for the 2019 SBS Bank Tour of Southland before sitting in the back of the bunch for future races.
It’s the end of an era. Bruce remembers watching stage finishes in Bluff as a young child, he joined the tour as a judge in 1970, began his role as race director in 1985 and will step away after November having completed what he calls a 50-year ‘apprenticeship’.
But Bruce is adamant that the show will go on. All the elements that have helped knit the tour into the fabric of our community remain intact, ready for a fresh set of eyes to build on what is considered New Zealand’s most prestigious stage race.
“It’s time to hand over the reins to a suitable successor,” Bruce told SouthlandSport.com.
“I have seen many changes throughout my involvement with the event, having seen the tour evolve initially from a three-day event through to its present day standing as a seven-day race. Throughout this time, the tour has seen the development of many outstanding champions, with current international riders such as George Bennett, Dion Smith and Jack Bauer, plus many others, all having learnt their trade at the Tour of Southland.”
Cycling Southland general manager Nicola Wills said maintaining and building on the success of the tour was a priority for the organisation.
“Ensuring continuity and the future success of the iconic Tour of Southland is paramount,” she said.
“Cycling Southland is currently finalising the succession plan for the Race Director role and will be announcing very shortly the details of that process.”
Bruce plans to join the large group of volunteers upon which the tour relies.
“The tour will continue to be successful long into the future. It receives excellent support throughout the region and I am confident that the relationships which have been developed between Cycling Southland and the community over many years will ensure the event’s ongoing success.
“I believe that the community is extremely proud of this iconic event and want it to continue to be successful. The fact that I’m finishing as race director does not mean the Tour of Southland will lose any of its lustre or professionalism – new personnel can bring new ideas and I would certainly welcome and encourage that.”
SBS Bank GM Development Phil Jamieson was full of praise for the work that Bruce had undertaken in developing the Southland-based race into such an iconic event of national and international importance.
“The 2019 race will be the seventh that we’ve been the naming rights sponsor for. Since getting involved in 2013, we’ve watched it grow in popularity to the point that there’s no doubt it’s the best multi-stage cycle race in the country.
“Our partnership with Cycling Southland is a key plank of our Southland community relations programme and we’re looking forward to seeing how it continues to evolve in the future,” he said.
“The race is closely connected to our goals of promoting wellness through being active, as well as connecting with the wider Southland community.”
Those involved in the tour understand the role that Bruce’s family has played.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have had such a supportive family who have assisted me greatly throughout my tenure as race director, without this support I would not have been able to continue for the time that I have,” Bruce said.
“I stopped short of having ‘mandatory tour assistance’ written into our wedding vows, but Pam has been understanding and always been there as my right-hand person. Twin daughters Suzanne and Amy have grown up with the Tour of Southland and began helping from the time they could walk. They provide outstanding support and, while their roles may change, I am sure they will continue to assist in some manner.
“We’ve made some minor changes for this year’s course due to logistical reasons. The course we’ve used for the past couple of years is a very good one. It’s provides opportunities for different styles of riders and has produced close finishes, with the result often in the balance on the final stage into Gala St. As a race director and promoter, you can’t ask for more than that.”