A number of overall Calder Stewart Cycling Series titles will be decided on Sunday in an exciting final round of racing, the iconic Cycle Surgery Hell of the South, which features gravel sections that will have a major impact on the racing.
Elite series leader Sam Horgan (Mike Greer Homes Racing), who has his eyes on a third series title, says he is looking forward to a ‘good hard race’ that will also be a good indicator of his form as he heads overseas later this month to race in Australia and China for his Australian Continental Pro team Budget Forklifts.
“The Hell of the South is a really unique race due to the gravel, “Horgan said. “We only get to race it once a year and I actually like the challenge of the gravel as it makes it a tough race so a strong team to support you if something happens is important.”
Horgan says he feels confident about his form after a good block of training and he is keen to test the legs ahead of his major goal this year, the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic next Saturday. Horgan had the biggest win of his career two years ago when he won the Victorian cycling race which is the second oldest one day cycling event in the world and the longest in the Southern hemisphere.
“I know the Calder Stewart elite overall title is still very much on the line on Sunday but I am feeling good about getting the result I need to win the series for the third time. You need a special skill set to do well and it will be a good litmus test for me looking ahead to the overseas races coming up.”
Horgan has Tom Hubbard (Breads of Europe) looming as his major threat for the series elite win in the absence of Max Jones from Modus Construct who lies second and leads the Under 23 classification. Without Jones or Bradley Leitch (Cycling NZ Academy) racing Richard Lawson (TotalPOS Solutions) is well positioned to claim back the Under 23 jersey he wore earlier in the series.
Last year’s elite series winner Michael Vink says his form is ‘a bit of an unknown’ as he makes his first appearance in this year’s series after a disappointing season in Europe affected by illness while racing for Continental team Champion System.
“’I feel fit but haven't had much racing this year so no doubt the intensity will be a bit of a shock,” he said. “I'm totally over the illness that has plagued me this season and I've worked hard these last few weeks to get a good level of fitness back so I won't have to work too hard to prepare for next season.”
Vink says having so much time off the bike is something he’s never had to deal before so has gone back to basics and is not putting too much pressure on himself as he prepares to race in the Tour of Southland where he hopes to be in a position where he can enjoy the racing, which means being competitive.
It will be a battle between the Breads of Europe and Modus Construct teams for overall series elite team classification honours with only four points separating the two teams.
The Placemakers team have dominated the masters racing in the series as it builds for participating in the SBS Tour of Southland in the first week of November, and that domination is set to continue on Sunday as it will look to stamp its final mark on the series.
After a win and two second places Dunedin’s Justin Stott (Placemakers) leads the Masters 35 to 44 classification but has the West Coast’s Brent Allnut (Team Thule Cycling) breathing down his neck, lying only six points behind.
Things are also tight at the top of the Masters 45 to 49 classification with Christchurch’s Darrell Kircher (Christchurch Mitsubishi) clinging to a three point lead over Dunedin’s Paul Gough from Cycling World Masters.
Gough’s team mate Chris Harvey has a more comfortable 23 point lead in the Masters over 50 classification from Christchurch rider Geoff Searle (Corsa Zona Rossa).
Last year’s women’s series winner Sharlotte Lucas (Benchmark Homes) is hoping Sunday’s racing will be hard and challenging and that her previous experience on the gravel will mean she can overtake series leader Amanda Jamieson (Black Magic Black) who she trials by only two points.
“It’s definitely a strong rider’s course, especially if it’s windy” Lucas said. “There’s no doubt previous experience on the gravel helps as I know what to expect and how hard it can be. I’m in with a good shot to still win the series; we have a good team plan and I’ll give it a hundred percent.”
Experienced Nelson rider Karen Fulton (Freshchoice Richmond/Pomeroys) lies third and is within striking distance of Jamieson and Lucas while the Black Magic Black team will also look to hold off Benchmark Homes and Cycle World Fairweathers to win the women’s team’s classification.
The elite men will race 144 kilometres over four laps of the circuit based near Leeston in Canterbury's Selwyn District while the masters and women tackle three laps and 108 kilometres of racing.