By Alan Messenger
It's nine years since Gordon McCauley won New Zealand's Tour of Southland, but the evergreen Kiwi is back in this year's field for the PowerNet sponsored race and as always he'll be one of the tour's major players. "I don't think you could consider me one of the favourites to win but I'm certainly in pretty good shape," McCauley said in an interview at Auckland Airport on his way to ride the Australian Sun Tour.
Last year McCauley was a late entry in the Southland race, and with no real preparation, he won two stages and for good measure took out the King of the Mountains title. After the Tour, the Auckland based rider promised that he'd be back this year and with better preparation could again be a win contender.
He has spent this whole year at home in New Zealand but he doesn't see that as a problem going into the Tour. "To tell you the truth I think it's working to my advantage. I'm not tired as I usually am at this stage of the year. I'm actually focused on the end of season races like the Sun Tour and the Tour of Southland," McCauley said.
McCauley has a further motivation for Southland. "Yes I'm on the Commonwealth Games long list now, and that's an incentive," he added.
At Invercargill, McCauley will line up in a strong Zookeepers Trek team with Hayden Roulston, Heath Blackgrove, Dale Cheatley and trackie Marc Ryan. McCauley, however, isn't the only previous winner in this year's field. Double winner John Lieswyn (USA) will line up in what may well be his swan song event in a strong Southland Times team with another previous winner, US based Kiwi Glen Mitchell, World Track champion Greg Henderson and two young Waikato riders Tim Gudsell and Peter Latham.
Latham's presence in the team will certainly give it some extra firepower. Last year, as a member of the Rabobank team, he won the time trial stage and took out the overall Under 23 title. Last month at Madrid in Spain, he took the bronze medal in the World Under 23 time trial event.
Entries for Southland don't close until 17 October, but race organizer Bruce Ross said that he is confident of fielding 20 teams for the Tour. "I can't give a final lineup yet of course, but there has been immense interest from around the World. I've had enquiries from Poland, Holland, France, Germany and Switzerland," he said.
The Tour starts in Invercargill in New Zealand's deep south on Monday, November 7, and finishes back in the city on Saturday November 12.