PowerNet Tour of Southland organisers are hoping this year's event will attract a capacity field of 130 competitors, with the looming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games expected to increase demand locally. The quality of the field will boosted with the Oceania Road and Track Championships being held in Invercargill just days after Southland's final stage.
The event's manager, Bruce Ross, recently announced the route for this year's November 5 - 10 race, revealing that three American teams, plus a squad from Ireland and New Caledonia have indicated their interest in contesting the event. With entries closing in mid-October organisers are expecting a host of Australian and New Zealand riders to again contest the nine stage event that covers over 900 kilometres of New Zealand's Southland province.
The Tour of Southland's route for 2007 remains nearly identical to that of last year. The nine stage event will again kick off with a short Individual Time Trial in Queens Park and make its way through the Tuatapere, Winton and Lumsden areas before returning to finish in Invercargill.
While last year's PowerNet Tour of Southland was supposed to see the event celebrate its 50th anniversary, the race was overshadowed by a crash on the penultimate stage that saw Australia's Paul Crake undergo emergency spinal surgery. Crake was one of five cyclists blown off the road by a powerful wind gust as they headed into the final two kilometres of the 79 kilometre eighth stage from Te Anau to Lumsden.
The former stair climbing champion underwent an operation to stabilise his cervical vertebrae and to pin and secure the T5 and T6 vertebrae. The accident left Crake paralysed, with the doctor who performed surgery on him saying he'll never walk again, however the five-time Empire State Building stairs race winner has vowed to get back on his feet. "But I believe I can walk again, I will walk again," Crake told Smh.com.au. "I don't know when. I'm doing everything I can. Statistically I've been given a small chance. But I only need 1 or 2 per cent."
Tragedy again hit when the biggest revelation of the 2006 edition, 19 year-old Scott Peoples, lost his life after being struck by a Nissan Patrol four wheel drive while training at home in Shepparton, Australia just weeks after the event. The emerging young cyclist had claimed two stage victories in the 2006 race, putting his name up with the likes of fellow stage winners Greg Henderson (T-Mobile) and former Discovery Channel rider Hayden Roulston, and was on the verge of signing a professional contract at the time of the road accident.
Stage 1: Queens Park (ITT) 4.15 km
Stage 2: Feldwick Gates - Bluff Hill 81.63 km
Stage 3: Invercargill - Gore 165 km
Stage 4: Invercargill - Tuatapere 101 km
Stage 5: Tuatapere - Winton 88.30 km
Stage 6: Lumsden - Crown Range 133.85 km
Stage 7: Winton - Te Anau 163.6 km
Stage 8: Te Anau - Lumsden 79 km
Stage 9: Winton - Invercargill 64.4 km