Road cyclists from as far afield as Canterbury are starting to put their names in the hat to contest bragging rights for the country’s longest-running club road classic race when the Gore to Invercargill Classic returns this weekend.
In its 88th year, the 74km handicapped race is sponsored by Stonewood Homes and is a highlight on the Cycling Southland annual road racing calendar. Great names such as Greg Henderson, Marc Ryan, Dylan Kennett, former Tour of Southland winner Brad Evans and Southland cycling great Barry Harcourt – who won the classic three times in his career – feature on the coveted winner’s trophy.
Stonewood Homes director Brendan Akeroyd said he was proud to support a race that was steeped in so much history, to ensure it survived when so many other like it had disappeared.
“It’s a fantastic part of Cycling Southland history and a great race that really brings out the competitive nature in those riding it, although they are usually kept pretty honest as there is always some head wind at some point along the route,” Akeroyd said.
Southland elite rider Josh Haggerty has picked up the U19 title six years ago and the fastest time two years ago and will be keen to add the elusive winner’s title to his growing collection of successes.
“It’s a great race as it really pushes you to do your best from the start to finish. You have to use strategy to get yourself to the best finishing position and still ensure you have enough stamina in the tank to finish strongly,” Haggerty said
“The great prize money is a pretty good incentive too.”
Haggerty will be challenged however, after the in-form, first year elite racer Hamish Keast had an outstanding two days on the bike last weekend to win four out of five stages and the overall A Grade title in the inaugural Vital Signs Fight for Yellow Two Day Tour around Eastern Southland last weekend.
Keast said the two-day tour had been a great and challenging course and he would be ready to go again for the classic this Saturday.
“A lot of really hard and committed training is paying off for me on the bike right now and I’m pretty pleased with the results I have been consistently achieving.
“This Stonewood Homes Gore to Invercargill Classic is our most iconic race and it would be an honour to add that win to my achievements,” Keast said.
Stonewood Homes puts up $1000 cash with $500 on offer for the first home, while the rider with the fastest time will also receive $500.
As an avid cyclist himself, Akeroyd said if he ever raced the event and won, he would donate the prize money on to Hospice Southland as a sign of good will.
The race commences from the Gore Town and Country Club car park at 1.30pm on Saturday will travel via Mataura, then out the back Tuturau road to Wyndham, then Seaward Downs coming out at Kennington and finishing with the final sprint in Racecourse Road around 3pm, dependent on the weather and wind conditions.
Caption: Inaugural Vital Signs Fight for Yellow Two Day Tour A Grade winner Hamish Keast. A first-year elite rider from Southland, Keast had an impressive weekend on the bike winning four out of five stages in A Grade.