Date: Wednesday, 25 October 2017

With the days lengthening and temperatures rising, it's an ideal time to get out on the bike and Southlanders right across the province are taking advantage of daylight saving.

More than 20 families turned up to the Southland BMX Club's open day on October 15, to check out the track and have a go.

More people are hitting the mountain bike trails at Sandy Point and Bluff Hill – along with the others around the province, while hundreds of people have been out enjoying the new walking/cycling trail between Te Anau and Manapouri.

The spring weather also signals the impending arrival of the premier stage cycle race in the country – the SBS Bank Tour of Southland.

Now in its 61st year, more than 100 riders will be hitting the Southland highways and byways from Sunday, pedalling more than 1000 kilometres in an effort to claim the winner's yellow jersey at Gala St Reserve on Saturday, November 4.

Riders from around the country will be taking part, while we've also got competitors from the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, New Caledonia, South Africa and Germany.

One of the things that make the Tour such a success each year is the awesome community support we get.

The assistance our volunteers provide is the envy of other cycling – and sporting – organisations and we are truly grateful for that.

So whether you're managing a team or washing the jerseys or standing on a corner to make sure they don't get lost, a big thanks to all of you.

There's a long-standing joke that when the Tour arrives, the weather turns miserable. And often that's true – but it's also what makes it such a popular race.

Competitive cyclists like to make each other hurt and the wind or rain … or snow/hail/sleet … just adds to the challenge.

It can't be understated what a herculean effort is required to be crowned champion.

And it's not just one rider that can do it – the team of six must gel and work together to ensure victory.

Some very good riders are lining up this year but don't ask us to pick a winner.

The 2015 winner, Brad Evans, is back for PowerNet and will be well supported by Roman van Uden, but Taylor Gunman and the Americans in Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel will be keen to state their claim.

Last year's winner, Aaron Gate, is racing in Europe so his team Creation Signs L& M Group Ricoh will look to new riders to step up.

But an interesting battle will be for first Southlander home.

Matt Zenovich (Mike Greer Homes) will work hard to support Michael Vink's tilt at the title, while the Placemakers team has four Southlanders (Nick Kergozou, Luke Macpherson, Josh Haggerty and Sam Miller) and if they work well together could be a true force this year.

Vink won the final race in the Calder Stewart elite series at the weekend, while Jake Marryatt (Calder Stewart) took out the overall series title and will be in good form.

No matter what happens, the racing will be intense so do get out and enjoy it.

Finally, if you're on the roads this week and come across the Tour, do give the guys a wave and a toot.

We appreciate there will be some minor delays to motorists at various times, so we appreciate your support, understanding and patience.

*Mark Hotton is the general manager of Cycling Southland
Photo courtesy The Southland Times

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