Legendary Tour of Southland rider Gordon McCauley rates his 2010 Share the Road team as the strongest he’s ever been involved with.
That’s mighty kudos coming from a man who has an incredible 17 tours and two titles to his credit.
In November, the Auckland rider will join forces with last year’s runner-up and national road champion Jack Bauer, of Nelson, Olympic cyclist Jeremy Yates, of Hastings, Commonwealth Games medalist Jason Allen, of Christchurch, Tokoroa’s Justin Kerr and cycling stalwart Karl Murray, of Auckland, to contest the prestigious event.
McCauley claimed the general classification (GC) title in 1997 and 2005 and has notched up several team victories – a feat he aims to repeat with Share the Road this year.
“My days of racing for GC in the tour are over, but I would like to use my experience to ensure Share the Road come away with the win. And I’d like a stage win myself,” he said.
“I get the opportunity to race on the same team as some of my mates that I rarely get the chance to race with - fantastic.”
Share the Road boasts a formidable line-up of international riders united in a powerful quest – both on and off the bike.
The importance of the team’s safety message proved a major drawcard and struck an emotional chord with the riders.
“Having lost a couple of good mates over the years, it’s a subject that’s quite close to home for me personally so any exposure we can get out there the better,” Allen, who races in the US, said.
“The team is amazingly strong and I can’t wait to race with all the guys down there – it will be a lot of fun and if you can couple that with sharing a very important message it just makes it even more worthwhile.”
McCauley agreed. “Having been knocked off my bike twice by cars, I believe it is the most important message we can be spreading to both cyclists and motorists alike.”
For Murray, a former green jersey winner, respect for road rules was the key.
“Sharing the road is something we all need to learn otherwise more people will get hurt or die,” he said.
A powerful hill climb rider, Yates, 28, applauded the initiative of Road Safety Southland to use the tour as a platform to spread the Share the Road message.
“As regular road users, cyclists are faced by its hazards constantly – a clear public message can benefit us all,” he said.
Aiming to break into the professional ranks this year, the former world junior champion and Athens Olympian had some grand aims for the tour.
“For our hit team to win yellow, King of the Mountain and sprint jerseys, to win stages, lantern rouge, Wally of the Week and anything else that’s going,” Yates enthused.
Kerr, who made his Tour of Southland debut with Share the Road in 2003, deemed the 2010 contingent “super strong with obvious potential to win the tour”.
“It’s a team that is promoting cycling to kids as well as safe cycling for all age groups – it’s nice to be part of a team with an alternative focus off the bike as well as performing on it,” he said.
Second to Heath Blackgrove last year, UK-based Bauer, 25, was eager to see one of the Share the Road riders “win the bugger” this time around.
“This is a team with great support and staff, as well as a great message to represent. We get to have a real input into the local community and the kids,” he said.
“Awareness of cycling and cycling safety is always going to be needed. The way Share the Road gets into the schools and to the children is a great hands-on method.”
Sport Southland general manager Brendon McDermott was understandably excited about the potential of the Share the Road team.
“We have tried to pull together a really strong team in 2010 to be extremely competitive at the front end of the peloton and Karl has done a fantastic job in co-ordinating a talented bunch of riders,” he said.
“Last year we came close to pulling off what would have been a major upset – this year we hope to go one better.”
Sport Southland, which manages the team, was proud to support the Share the Road concept.
“Getting kids into organised sport and being active is high on our agenda. We want to encourage more people to bike or walk as an option to commuting and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle,” McDermott said.
Jane Ballantyne, of Road Safety Southland, said she applauded the enthusiasm of Sport Southland in facilitating the team.
“It ensures the Share the Road message is carried out creatively with a greater awareness of road safety for all road users,” she said.
The 2010 PowerNet Tour of Southland will be staged from November 1-6 and features six rider teams for the first time – a decision prompted by the trend towards larger teams at other international events in recent years.