Defending champion Michael Vink’s Placemakers team has put the rest of the SBS Bank Tour of Southland peloton on notice with a confident display in today’s prologue in stunning conditions in Invercargill.

Racing in blistering heat on the 4.2km circuit around picturesque Queens Park, Placemakers used the prologue to stretch their legs and get an early feel for the yellow jersey ahead of the longest stage of this year’s race tomorrow, the 170km stage from Invercargill to Lumsden.

James Harvey, who switched to road racing a couple of years ago after rowing and track cycling stints, headed home the Placemakers team and will wear yellow tomorrow.

James Fouche leads the Creation Signs-Ronald McDonald House – RICOH team in their prologue team time trial, photo James Jubb/Studio Jubb

“We’ve come here with a pretty strong team and we were targeting this stage a little bit, especially having guys like Michael Vink, who is a good time trialist, and Dylan Kennett, this is his sort of thing, so this was a really big stage for us and it’s really nice to come away with a result,” Harvey said.

The Base Solutions Racing team featuring New Zealand track cyclists Jordan Kerby and Campbell Stewart was second in the prologue, trailing by 3sec, and Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel were third, 5sec in arrears.

A field of 108 riders across six different nationalities will be vying for stage and overall honours in New Zealand’s most prestigious stage race, which features six road stages, an individual time trial and the famous Coronet Peak and Bluff Hill mountain climbs.

The race proper gets underway tomorrow and finishes back on Invercargill’s Gala St on Saturday.

Vet4Farm get their Tour of Southland underway, photo James Jubb/Studio Jubb

Tomorrow, Placemakers will be looking to put themselves in the best position for what is often a mass sprint finish down the main street of the northern Southland township of Lumsden.

“The plan is to protect our lead riders,” Harvey said.

“We’ve got Ethan Batt in the under 23 jersey and obviously we’ve got Michael Vink who will be coming out in the yellow jersey later in the week so we’ve got to make sure he’s in good position.

“Tomorrow is a good stage for us, it’s a long stage and we’ve got a really strong team. It’s a great stage for someone like Dylan Kennett to go for the sprint finish.”

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