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PowerNet Tour of Southland - 2.2

New Zealand, November 5-10, 2007

Locals odds on favourites in Southland

By Greg Johnson

Hayden Roulston will return to defend his title
Photo ©: Kevin Chang
(Click for larger image)

With the UCI 2.2 Tour of Southland soon to kick off on New Zealand's South island, all eyes will be on the two strong lineups fielded by the Subway and Trek Zookeepers Café outfits. Former T-Mobile professional and defending Tour of Southland champion Hayden Roulston will again be a contender in the nine stage tour, as will Trek Zookeepers Café team-mate Gordon Mccauley, who claimed the general classification victory in Southland during the 2005 edition.

The Trek Zookeepers Café outfit has one of the strongest overall lineups in this year's tour, something Roulston believes is crucial to success. "You really need a team to win this race and I proved it last year - I was the strongest rider in the race but I couldn't have done it without the team," Roulston told the NZHerald.co.nz.

One rider out to upset the duo will be Subway's Jeremy Yates, who will rider in the squad led by Hayden Godfrey. Yates has enjoyed a strong lead up to the tour, having claimed victory at the Downer EDI K2 Cycle Classic on October 28 - where he and New Zealand National squad team-mate Jeremy Vennell broke away to finish over two minutes ahead of the field.

Jeremy Yates and Jeremy Vennell (l) at the K2 event
Photo ©: Michael Jacques
(Click for larger image)

"It will be interesting to see where Yates' condition will be at after having recently returned to the sport," said Subway team manager Greg Hume, referring to Yates' recent return from a two year doping ban. "We may be pleasantly surprised if his form holds over the six days.
"He was heavily outnumbered by Vennell's team in the K2, forcing him to do a lot of the work but he still came out on top so it's a credit to him and his form - he's pulled up well and had a good week training and is going into the tour with a lot of confidence," added Hume.

Vennell will also be prevalent at this week's Tour, where he will ride in his Bissell Pro Cycling Team colours. Vennell is one of two New Zealand riders in the American NRC squad, which has brought out Americans Thomas Zirbel, Scott Zwizanski and Omer Kem to contest the event.

The American trio from Bissell Pro Cycling won't be alone in the land of the long white cloud, with two composite teams of American riders - NOW MS Society and Hilo Decorating - also make the trip down to the Southern Hemisphere.

Another rider you can expect to see vie for stage wins on home soil is Française des Jeux's Timothy Gudsell. The Kiwi ProTour rider will lead the Colour Plus squad, which will include Reon Park, Marc Ryan, Logan Hutchings and Westley Gough.

Last year's Stage 2 winner Clinton Avery will again return at the helm of the Ascot Park Hotel squad, while Aaron Strong, who performed well in last year's race, will again contest the event this time with The Southland Times outfit.

For some of the Oceania riders contesting the Tour of Southland, the event will act as a precursor to the Oceania Championships. The championships commence just three days after Southland, starting with the track events at Invercargill's ILT Velodrome on November 13 and running through to the conclusion of the road races on November 18.