Legendary PowerNet Tour of Southland champion Brian Fowler admits he’s keen for another crack at the punishing race.
And with more Tour titles to his credit than any other rider in the race’s 56-year history, you can bet it will take more than blowing out the candles on his 50th birthday cake to faze him.
Fowler, of Christchurch, has ventured south for the first time in three years’ to attend the 2011 edition of the event and catch up with mates at the Tour Legends dinner on Friday night.
“I do miss it. I’d love to be out there still racing. Maybe if I can find some time to do some actual training I might come down with like a vets team – I’m 50 next year so I’d like to come down and actually have another go,” he said.
“As you get older, you prioritise differently and you’ve got different goals. I certainly wouldn’t be down here to win it or anything but just to have a ride would be quite nice.”
Fowler had a monopoly on the Tour from 1985 to 1990 and added further to his title haul in 1992 and 1995.
While the introduction of team racing had altered the dynamics of the Tour in more recent years, Fowler enjoyed watching the tactics emerge as riders’ battled for the coveted yellow jersey.
“It’s changed a lot because the average rider is a little bit better. You can’t just say you’re going to go out and try and smash it apart every day because that doesn’t work,” he said.
“Things are a little bit more controlled now and you’ll probably note some of the teams are trying to ride together. Two or three teams will ride together to get a result.
“It’s actually quite hard to win so unless it’s controlled, its chaos all the time whereas when I was racing out there you could get about 10 different bunches come in – it was just split to bits.”
The euphoria of winning New Zealand’s longest cycle race was unforgettable, especially given the logistics involved.
“It takes a pretty big effort, a lot of planning and it also takes a little bit of luck to go your way as well,” Fowler said.
“A crash could rule you out straight away so I think I’ve been pretty lucky over the years.”
Nowadays, any time spent in the province sparked a trip down memory lane for Fowler.
“I can drive around and relate pretty much every piece of road to something that’s happened down here in the 23 times I’ve ridden the Tour,” he said.
“And it’s always good to see the people that are still involved with it like (Tour Director) Bruce Ross and all those guys.”