By John Stevenson
Bruce Ross, race director of the Tour of Southland, has defended his organisation's controversial decision to shorten last week's eighth stage of the New Zealand race. The stage was stopped with 48km to go at the top of Blackmount Hill because weather conditions meant it would be dangerous for the race to ride down off the mountains.
"When the race was stopped the descent would have been dangerous," Ross told Cyclingnews. "Also the race was behind schedule [for the planned traffic closure at the finish.]"
Riders were loaded into vehicles and driven to a point 24km from the finish where the race was restarted. A dispute arose because the restarted race preserved the time gap of three riders who had previously escaped from the peloton. On the top of Blackmount Hill, Anthony Chapman (Creation Signs), Gordon McCauley (Trek/Zookeepers Café), and Jaaron Poad (Trek/Zookeepers Café) had an advantage of four to five minutes on the peloton, a gap that had dropped from around seven minutes as the peloton had organised a concerted chase.
When the race was restarted with 24km to go, Chapman, McCauley and Paod were given a head start equal to their margin at the top of Blackmount. In protest, several teams staged a go-slow protest, including the Calder Stewart squad of race leader Jeremy Vennell and the Southland Times outfit of Cyclingnews diarist John Lieswyn.
Despite the protest, Ross doesn't believe there was any alternative. "People have been talking about a Duckworth Lewis rule, but how do you judge that? There was a bunch chasing three riders, but who says they would have caught them?"
But what should race organisers do in Ross' situation? Click here for the full story.