Heath Blackgrove started the 2012 PowerNet Tour of Southland exactly the same way he finished it in 2009 – in the yellow jersey.
Blackgrove, riding for PowerNet, crossed the line first in the team time trial around Invercargill’s Queens Park in the cold and windy conditions that have come to be expected of the Tour, and was pleased to take the yellow jersey on the opening day.
“We had a great ride, everyone was smooth which was key and we’re pretty happy to come away with yellow,” he said.
“We didn’t talk about getting yellow, we talked about having a good smooth ride and to leave it all out there. It was pretty blustery out there in a couple of parts, you had to pick your lines.”
Blackgrove won the Tour in 2009 and has been based in America for the past two years. He joins a young and strong PowerNet team which includes Ryan Wills, Shane Archbold, Cam Karwowski, Myron Simpson and Tom Scully.
PowerNet won last year’s Tour with Josh Atkins, and Blackgrove admitted having a team that knew how to defend the yellow jersey could prove invaluable.
The team time trial was a close affair, with PowerNetfinishingnarrowly ahead of Calder Stewart and Subway Pro Cycling.Blackgrove, whilst happy to be back in yellow, admitted there was a long way to go.
“It doesn’t change much, it was only 4km in what is a long week, but it’s a great way to open up the legs and get the nerves out of the system.”
Fellow PowerNet rider Myron Simpson will go into Stage 1 leading The Co-operative Bank Under 23 classification, while Calder Stewart’s Michael Vink picked up the Harcourts Sprint Ace jersey.
Bruce Ross, Tour director of the past 27 years, said this year’s Tour field signalled a “changing of the guard”.
“There are some very good riders in this field. I think Blackgroveis looking good, he’s had a pretty solid year by all accounts. The Bissell team, they’re not coming here for a holiday and they are led well by Jeremy Vennell. And I like the look of Paddy Bevin too,” he said.
“There are some good development riders coming through and they are stamping their mark nationally and internationally, which is exciting. New Zealand is producing some good riders.
“There is a good spread in the field, there is certainly a lot of experience there but I think we are seeing a changing of the guard.”