Entries for the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland have had a resurgence this year with more than 100 riders racing across the under-13 to under-19 age groups in the race, which starts with a prologue time trial at Teretonga Park on Friday.
The increase in numbers is a sign of the growing popularity of road cycling in the south, particularly among the juniors, according to Cycling Southland tour director Danielle Ralph.
The biggest fields will be the under-17s with 45 entries, featuring a highly competitive field of 29 male riders, and the under-15 field with 16 girls and 14 boys.
Ralph said she doesn't know who would win across any of the grades.
"You can usually pick someone who is stronger than everyone and will dominate but this year it's not so clear," she said.
"If you look at the results of recent tours around the country, along with the road and school nationals, many of the top four to five riders in each event are here, so it's going to be an extremely competitive event."
Many riders who featured in the national schools road champs in Manawatu last weekend will be racing in the Junior Tour, including Yunca-sponsored invitee Tyla-Mia
Foster, who is being brought to ride the tour as a gift after winning her under-13 age group at the North Island road champs on her racing debut. She placed second at the schools competition during the weekend.Other tour riders to feature in the top three placings at the schools event were under-19 Bailey O'Donnell from Christchurch, under-17 Laurence Pithie from Canterbury, Nelson's Finn Fisher-Black, Henrietta Christie from Selwyn, Auckland's Ally Wollaston and under-15 riders Kaio Lartfrom Nelson and Auckland's Bee Townsend.
"There's been strong resurgence in junior cycling, both in Southland and nationally. Cycling Southland has had an increased focus on junior road cycling for the past year and we're starting to see the benefits of that, while Cycling New Zealand Schools has been driving these age-groups across the country," Ralph said.
"Cycling Southland has been running an Intro to Road Racing series and had 29 young riders taking part – we expect them to be taking part the Yunca Junior Tour next year."
"More events equal better riders, which in turn means stronger riders and better racing, it's a win-win evolution."