Date: Tuesday, 06 September 2016

Cyclists wanting to emulate their heroes will have the chance to race on a section of the Tour of Southland this year.

While public stages are popular in overseas cycle races, this is the first time southern cyclists will have a chance to ride part of the course that the Tour riders will be racing on – but it won't be an easy feat.

Members of the public are being challenged to take part in the Bluff Hill charity ride, a 7km journey starting at the Stirling Point signpost in Bluff, through the seaside town and finishing on the summit of Bluff Hill.

Tour manager Bruce Ross said those taking part in the SBS Bank Tour of Southland have a love/hate relationship with the Bluff Hill stage.

"They love to hate it," he said.

"Now other riders have the chance to have a go at it and see what all the fuss is about."

"Public stages are extremely popular in international tours like the Tour de France where thousands of people take part, so we've decided to introduce a race here - and what better challenge could we provide than Bluff Hill?"

It might be designed as a workplace charity challenge but there's nothing charitable about the 7km race because most of it features a climb up a gradient regarded as one of the toughest road cycling climbs in New Zealand.

"That will provide the sternest of challenges to those who dare to take it on," Ross said.

The ride will take place on Thursday November 3, and coincide with finish of the Bluff Hill stage.

The charity riders will finish before the arrival of the Tour of Southland riders, who will also have done a 148km ride before tackling the hill.

A powhiri and traditional Bluff fare and hospitality are some of the activities being arranged as part of this occasion.

A major winner's prize and numerous spot prizes will be awarded.

Ross said money raised will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House, which has a connection to the tour.

"Two years ago, just prior to the Tour, my second granddaughter was born and diagnosed with a heart condition that required immediate medical treatment in Starship Hospital in Auckland.

"The care provided to my family, including air travel and accommodation was outstanding to say the least and contributed greatly to the successful outcome."

He also expects a special appearance by one of the Tour of Southland's legends will provide an incentive for the public to take part.

Warwick Dalton, three-times winner of the Tour of Southland and arguably one of the best cyclists that this country has ever produced, will be in Southland as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations and will be involved with the charity ride in Bluff.

"Many Southlanders will remember Dalton's name with passion and recall the huge crowds he used to pull to Kew Bowl," Ross said.

"While it's unlikely that Warwick will ride the Hill, he is keen to be part of the charity ride and it will be great to have him here for the event."

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