Kiwivelo Armstrong Prestige’s James Oram finished safely in the final stage bunch finish to claim his first SBS Bank Tour of Southland victory, following the final stage from Winton to Invercargill on Saturday.
With solid team support through the tour and on the final stages, Oram first claimed the Tour’s yellow jersey on Tuesday’s climb up Bluff Hill and he never looked like relinquishing his grasp throughout the final five days of the gruelling Southland event.
“It’s mentally tough but the boys are amazing. They’re definitely the strongest team of the race and definitely the smartest so I couldn’t have asked for a better team. “I’ve known all our guys for a couple of years now so we’ve gelled straight away - there’s always laughs back at the hotel” Oram said.
“On a day like this there’s really only rain to deal with, no wind makes our job that little bit easier but it’s still mentally hard. Without those winds again today you breathe a sigh of relief.
“Winning is certainly a highlight in my New Zealand racing career and it’s pretty awesome. It just hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Oram also took out the Henderson Construction Limited U23 jersey, while Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers Taylor Gunman claimed second overall from Barry Stewart Builders Sam Lindsay.
Southland’s Tom Scully riding for Ascot Park Hotel Kia Southland took away the Harcourts Sprint Ace while Grayson Napier of Creation Signs L&M Group Racing claiming the Jesco Hydraulic King of the Mountain. Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers won the Wensley's Cycles Teams Classification.
The final stage was claimed by Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers’ Brenton Jones in a tight bunch race for the finish line. H&Js Outdoor World Avanti Plus’ Cameron Karwowski was beaten in to second ahead of 2012 winner Mike Northey (Kiwivelo Amstrong Prestige).
Jones said it was a squeeze down the final straight and he was grateful to be able to hold his line and take the final stage win.
“I had a few team mates with me from the last two laps to go and half way round the last lap they were fatigued and they’d done a great job and it was enough for them, so they sent me off and put me on to the back of Kiwivelo and around the last corner there were a number of teams up there and I was maybe tenth wheel. I dived under in the last corner in the wet and in the sprint, there’s always argy bargy and I found a gap and squeezed past for the win.”
Earlier in the day James Oram had set up his SBS Bank Tour win, limiting his losses to finish third in the morning's penultimate stage, an Individual Time Trial.
New Zealand national champion Joe Cooper claimed the stage victory with a blazing 16m 11sec to lift the Tom Tindale Memorial Trophy by 39 seconds from his Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers team-mate Taylor Gunman.
SBS Bank Tour manager Bruce Ross couldn’t have been more delighted with the 2013 event.
“It’s been a great week and all credit to the riders and everybody who took part, overall another very successful Tour of Southland.”
“Going into the tour it was thought it was going to be one of the more evenly contested races and that absolutely proved to be the case. There’s some very good up-and-coming riders and I think it was a very good race overall and a very even race – a great result.”
Ross said having a couple of significant changes to the course – not the least Coronet Peak – had also proven to be a positive for the tour.
“That day finish up Coronet Peak will live long in the memories, I think some of them might be still suffering from that, but I think it’s there to stay, it was very spectacular, there’s no doubt about that and a very successful stage.”
“Having SBS Bank on board has proven to be a great partner and they’ve been excellent to work with and we look forward to working with them over the years into the long-term future,” Ross said.
Cycling Southland now immediately switches its attention to SIT Zero Fees Velodrome where it will host the Festival of Speed UCI Tier 1 track cycling event from November 16 to 17, followed by the Oceania Track Championships from November 19 to 22.