There will be a nod to the past and a look to the future when the country’s longest running club Classic cycle race is held on Saturday.
Cycling Southland general manager Mark Hotton said the Stonewood Homes Gore to Invercargill handicapped race, now in its 87th year, was regarded as one of New Zealand’s great races, with some notable names etched on the trophy.
More than 50 riders from around the South Island will line up on Saturday with $500 on offer for the first home in the 66-kilometre race, while the rider with the fastest time will also receive $500.
With leading Southland rider Matt Zenovich currently racing in the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, rising star Corbin Strong will be looking to step into the senior ranks and claim the title, having won the U19 division last year, Hotton said.
This will be the first real test for Strong following his recovery from fracturing his T1 vertebra in a collision with a car in January. He was unable to train for eight weeks and missed the national track championships.
Strong said he was looking forward to getting back to racing.
“I’ve been back doing small rides but I’m much more unfit than I was before the accident. I rode the Saturday road race last weekend and went all right but I was struggling a bit,” he said.
“Hopefully scratch can get a good handicap and make it through to the front and hopefully I’m still there at the end.”
The prize money would be handy this year in helping him achieve his goals of representing New Zealand at the junior world track (Switzerland in August), and road (Austria in September) championships.
Also making a return will be 1998 Commonwealth Games points race gold medalist Glen Thomson, who said he who loved the race’s history.
“It’s a pretty cool race. My dad and uncle rode it plenty of times and with my kids starting to ride now I think it’s important to show them that their dad can do it too.”
Thomson said he’d last ridden in the race in 2008 and had taken part about a dozen times with his best result “a fourth or fifth I think”.
“There’s no semblance of form and I’m not expecting any result. But it’s only an hour and a-half of my time on a Saturday afternoon so we’ll go for a look. I just hope not to be on scratch.”
Southland-based Stonewood Homes owner Brendan Akeroyd, a passionate cyclist, said he loved the race and the competition it brought out in riders.
“It’s not an easy race to win because you’re usually heading into a wind at some point.”
“But the first person over the line has the potential to take away $1000 if they also have the fastest time. That’s not bad for less than a couple of hours on the bike.”
Invercargill rider Mike White won last year, with Josh Haggerty recording the fastest time, while previous winners include 2015 SBS Bank Tour of Southland winner Brad Evans (2014), Marc Ryan (2008 and 2011), Dylan Kennett (2012) and Greg Henderson (1998).
The Stonewood Homes Gore to Invercargill will be held on Saturday, March 24. Entry can be made at cyclingsouth.org.nz. Racing starts at 1.30pm from the Gore Town & Country Club with the finish line in Racecourse Rd likely to have the first riders home in about 100 minutes, depending on the wind.