We are just a week away from the SBS Tour of Southland 2017 and anticipation is certainly sky high. We’re looking forward to a week of furious, unpredictable, exciting racing and while we say ‘unpredictable’ we couldn’t not give our predictions of who to look out for. Here are 7 riders we think you should keep your eyes peeled for in this year’s race.
Brad Evans – Powernet
While the 2016 champion may be absent the 2015 champion is very present and to say his form is promising would be a bit of an understatement. Evans has torn it up in the National Road Series in Australia this year as well as making his mark with seven top ten finishes in UCI events in New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. Evans won the Tour of the Great South Coast with a very strong performance, took second in the GP Beeckman-De Caluwe; and with a diverse range of skills to hand can’t be written off anywhere in just about any stage of the race.
James Fouche – Creation Signs L&M Group Ricoh
New Zealand is the proud possessor of a massive throng of young talent at the moment with masses of potential, and James Fouche is one of those at the core of that hub of young talent. Riding for the team of last year’s champion Aaron Gate (Gate is absent from this year’s race), this year has seen Fouche take on more UCI racing around the world than ever before. After finishing second in the U23 men’s road race and time trial at Elite Nationals in Napier and taking on the New Zealand Cycle Classic, stage races in Australia, America and the U23 Giro d’Italia were all tackled by Fouche. There are a number of riders who have had a lot more exposure to international racing, and for them – as for James – it will be interesting to see what effect that has on one of the two biggest stage races on our shores.
Taylor Gunman – KIA Motors Ascot Park Hotel
We caught up with Taylor before the start of the second round of the Dynamo Team Championship in Tokoroa. He’d recently returned home from racing in the UK for Madison-Genesis and had told us that he was very unsure of how he would go, but just a couple of kilometres into the race we got a pretty good indication. Gunman’s strength aided the break of the day as they held off a pretty resilient peloton for a good chunk of the race. It’s Gunman’s all out ‘pain . . . what pain?’ attitude and strength on the bike that will make him an exciting prospect in any and every break he should happen to find himself in at Southland.
Paul Odlin – Powernet
As we write this Odlin is about to head to the final round of the Calder Stewart Series with the overall lead in hand. This year the 39 year old has defied rivals several years his junior to lead the series and the KOM classification; one to watch in the climbs of Southland perhaps? His series lead was built on victory in the Dunedin Classic and an impressive one at that which saw him launch a powerful move to solo to the finish. Whether Odlin will be free to fly or will be sacrificing personal ambitions for the team is yet to be seen; but do not discount Odlin from one or two moments of magic this year.
Michael Vink – Mike Greer Homes
If successful in winning this year’s SBS Tour of Southland Michael Vink will join the illustrious list of riders who have won the Tour of Southland, national championships in both road and time trial, and the New Zealand Cycle Classic. He is one of the most complete talents New Zealand has, and he has come very close to the big win in Southland. Last year he was second to Aaron Gate, and a stage winner atop Bluff Hill and in the individual time trial, as well as overall leader for a day. Crucially Vink knows how cruel Southland can be. He held the overall lead for just a day with more than 2 minutes in hand over his nearest rivals; typically a winning margin . . . but this is Southland. He lost 5 minutes the next day and dropped to third before a final resurgence to runner-up spot. He certainly won’t be short on determination to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Michael Torckler – Blindz Direct
Another one to feel the full force of Southland’s cruelty when in the yellow jersey, Michael Torckler provided us with one of the most memorable moments of the 2016 race when he and Hamish Bond bossed the field to the top of Coronet Peak; with Torckler taking the stage and race lead in impressive fashion. Like Vink, Torckler’s stay in yellow would be short lived, and it’s Torckler’s slight climber’s build that could play against him. He has winning quality most certainly, but if those famous Southland crosswinds bite he will struggle. But the moment the roads go up you can count on him to make everyone else struggle just as badly.
Joel Yates – Team Skoda Racing
Team Skoda Racing are the only team in this year’s race to be entirely made up of U23 riders, and they possess several riders who could well feature in our riders to watch; but we’re very excited about the form of this guy. Joel Yates’ return to New Zealand racing comes off the back of a long stint in the US of A where he has plied his trade with some strong performances. We’re eager to see what his time in the States has done for him with such a large body of racing across the board for Yates. Road, track, crit, he did it all and enjoyed success in all, he could be one of the finds of Southland….