Hayden Roulston was a relieved recipient of his fourth Tour of Southland title on Saturday after a claiming a tight two second win
over compatriot Jack Bauer.
This is probably the best to be honest because I had to stay quite focused. It's really hard coming down here with the weight of expectation on your shoulders...everyone just expects you to win, they just don't know how hard it is to win," he told press agency NZPA. "There are some very classy bike riders in New Zealand and I really take my hat off to them - they gave me a good run."
Roulston had snatched the yellow jersey from Bauer on the penultimate stage after he claimed victory in a photo-finish sprint in Lumsden on Saturday morning to move into a four-second lead. Roulston then faced a nervous 64 kilometre final stage from Winton to Invercargill on Saturday afternoon, which was eventually won by his Calder Stewart-BikeNZ National teammate and fellow European pro Greg Henderson. Bauer finished third in the final sprint, to fall two seconds short of Roulston overall.
"If Bauer had won the stage then he would have taken the jersey back off Roly," Henderson said. "So it was a bit of a panic sprint in
the finish but luckily enough I had the legs to get him on the line."
Bauer (Share the Road) was disappointed to have come so close to toppling Roulston, who will begin his second season with ProTour
squad HTC next year.
"We did what we could," said Bauer. "Roly has a lot of mates down here and, as you saw in this morning's stage, it's pretty hard to go
up against that kind of manpower. Second's the same as getting 100th I guess but I laid it all out there, put 150 per cent in and just
didn't come out on top.
"It's really disappointing to work the team so hard over the whole course of the week and then come second -- [the team] deserve the
yellow for the work they put in."
Share the Road claimed the second and third spots on the final podium, with Jeremy Yates taking third overall. While Yates claimed
two stage wins during the tour, his collision with a motorcycle on stage six ruined his chance of overall victory. Bauer pointed to the incident as the turning point in the race for the team.
"Our tour kind of fell apart under the most bizarre circumstances but that's cycling -- anything can happen and it did," he said. "You take
away lessons and there's always a positive in it -- just not a yellow positive."
"I've finished the tour in much worse condition. This tour usually has a hard luck story and maybe this year I'm it," said Yates.
The USA's Floyd Landis finished the race fourth overall.