While many southerners will be spending Easter weekend resting and relaxing, the 88-strong field in the 2013 Vital Signs Tour de Lakes will cover up to 360 kilometres around the scenic southern lakes district over four days of racing in Cycling Southland’s annual Easter cycling tour.
Last year, two categories were decided on the final stage to Moke Lake and this year looks to be filled with hotly contested battles across all grades.
With last year’s H&Js Outdoor World A Grade champion and Tour of Southland stage winner Daniel Barry now riding for Node 4 Pro Cycling in the UK, three of last year’s top five return to fight out the premier title. Matt Zenovich (third), Otago’s Brad Evans (fourth) and Tim Rush (fifth) all featured prominently 12 months ago, but will face a number of challenges for the overall title. Two time Tour de Lakes winner, the ageless Gordon McCauley is likely to be in the thick of the action all weekend, on and off the bike, while junior worlds track representatives Josh Haggerty (Invercargill) and Liam Aitcheson (Alexandra) are likely to challenge their more experienced counterparts. Luke Macpherson has continued to make giant strides in his fledging road career while Tom Hubbard should relish another trip to the Te Anau basin, where he beat Macpherson home in a sprint finish to claim the Milford Mountain Classic in January.
Graeme Hyde Landscaping B grade is dominated by wily veterans including Masters Track national title holders Craig Domigan (Timaru), Mike White, Garry Smith and Jerard Stock (all of Invercargill). Also expect strong showings from power-house Geoff Keogh from Dunedin, Timaru’s Glenn Gould, who placed sixth overall last year, and last year’s C Grade winner Vaughan Edie.
Former World Ironman champion Scott Molina headlines the Lowe Enterprises C Grade with Invercargill’s Andrew Lienert, Alan Strong Andrew Holden and last weekend’s Greenfields Classic winner Tim Maynard all names to watch.
Another strong Seaton Exhausts Women’s Grade looms with Olympian Linda Villumsen among the favourites. The Danish-born former World Championship medallist missed an Olympic medal by just two seconds and after a post-Olympic break she has signed with Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling for 2013. Triple Paralympic pilot Laura Fairweather will be looking to go one-better than her runner-up finish in last year’s Tour de Lakes while Olympic team pursuiter Lauren Ellis and last year’s top five finishers Gabrielle Vermunt and Haley Mercer are all expected to feature prominently.
The four day tour begins on Good Friday with a 5 kilometre prologue time trial at Cromwell. The first road stage starts at 8:30 on Saturday morning from the Remarkables to Five Rivers with the 80 kilometre afternoon stage to Manapouri likely to play havoc with the general classifications. Easter Sunday’s programme starts with a 20 kilometre time trial from Manapouri to Te Anau, followed by a return trip to Five Rivers that afternoon. The defining final day sees the climbers come to the fore with a 50 kilometre morning stage from Fern Hill to Glenorchy and the final 45 kilometre grunt from Glenorchy to Moke Lake.