In the scheme of things I think Invercargill gets a bad wrap. Coming back down here for the fourth year in the same awesome set up with KIA motors team and by far the most enthusiastic set of staff I’ve ever had is pretty exciting. The Tour of Southland is a great race and I'm happy to be here with a great bunch of people.
It's been a funny race for me over the years. I have been getting consistently worse at the Tour since my first participation. As a junior I think I was top fifteen overall but haven’t been able to crack the top 50 since, so this year I owe the team a bit more of a performance despite having probably my worst build up in a while. Wisdom teeth issues, injuries, sickness and a rugby world cup meant I haven’t been doing the ideal prep before coming here - but I'll do my best.
Day 1 [Yesterday] of the Tour went well. We lost a little bit of time in the 4 km teams time trail but the boys scrapped together to get four of us across the line with no crashes or major dramas.
Today however threw us a few more curve balls. 160 kilometres of cross winds and dead roads isn’t exactly good for my sub 60kg frame but in the end I managed to pull back some precious seconds on overnight leader Hayden Roulston. However at one stage it looked like I was again heading for a disastrous result. We managed to stack our man Nick King in the 9-man early break and we sat back while "Rolys" boys controlled the front and waited for the fun to begin.
The winds kept getting stronger and it wasn’t long before it was full noise lined out in the gutter. I got blown completely off the road into the ditch; by the time I got back up I was in the 3rd group on the road. I eventually caught the second and crawled up to the front of the race in time for some more gutter attacks. I countered a Roulston move and slipped off the front and was soon joined by 5 others. We built a good gap but the boys started pissing around in the final kilometres and I finished last in the sprint after trying to keep the pace high 23secs in front of the bunch.
I did however get the pink jersey (Best under 23) by one second over Livestrong team mate Josh Atkins but with absolutely disgusting weather on the way and a small bump called ‘Bluff Hill’ tomorrow things are looking likely for another shake up. Luckily my teammates are hitters and know that I need some baby-sitting in the cold.
Whatever happens I’m having a bloody good time with a particularly animated team and of course some great banter in the bunch that is traditional to the mighty Tour of Southland.
George Bennett is a New Zealand rider with a big future. An impressive year riding with American development team Trek-Livestrong has set the 21-year-old up on the brink of a professional future.
Back in New Zealand for the Tour of Southland, Bennett is blogging for Cyclingnews as he aims to complete a rare antipodean double, having earlier in the year taken out the Tour of Wellington.
Follow his journey as he describes the ups-and-downs of the unheralded, but leg-crunching Tour of Southland; the unofficial "fourth Grand Tour".
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