Stage Four: Te Anau to Queenstown 187km

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This week, the Oamaru Mail has published local cycling enthusiast Adair Craik’s experience through each stage of cycling’s recent Tour of Southland.

This had to be the longest day in the world – Almost five hours of riding, followed by a 9km climb up Coronet Peak road to the finish.

Those boys certainly earned their living that day.

No one wanted to stop for a comfort stop or drinks if they didn’t absolutely need to as they could not risk losing contact with the peloton.

None of our team wanted to be last so there was plenty of action between the pink boys on the climb.

Stage Five: Invercargill to Lumsden 156km

By Stage Five the race was hotting up, suddenly there were eight riders from various teams in contention to win so every second counted.

The pace was on and the boys were still tired from the long haul up coronet Peak the day before.

One of the boys said his lungs hurt while I was massaging him, Averaging 53kms for 156km was very tough.

What I haven’t mentioned is that one of our team members, Daniel Carruthers was actually 92 per cent deaf.

Daniel uses hearing aids but relies mostly on lip reading.

This created some interesting situations during the tour.

On one stage, Avanti who later went on to win the Tour and took the first two placings, didn’t take it lightly when Daniel, nicknamed Boomer, displayed by his punchy speed and won two sprints on two separate days, managed to get near the front of the cyclists and in amongst Avanti’s own team.

The strong teams like to control the tempo of the race and it was distracting having this fluro pink rider amongst their blue cycling kit.

They started yelling at him but Daniel blissfully continued on his journey.  One of the Avanti riders, went up to his side and whacked him on the leg and told him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t welcome.

Daniel yelled ‘NO’ (Com 1 was raising his eyebrows) “Either get in the gap or go” said the Avanti rider.

This time Daniel complied, he hadn’t realised how aggressive Australian teams could be.

Stage Six:  14km Time Trial

It was do or die time for the top eight leading riders and this stage can really make a difference.

Daniel could not hear the countdown, so I stood there holding up my fingers so he knew when to go.

The team all finished within the time-cut so we were relieved, by then we knew everyone was going to finish.

Stage Seven: Winton to Invercargill 88km

There was now only seconds between the top three places, so it was up to Avanti to control the race in order to keep their men at number one and two in general classification.

Control it they did and everyone suffered.

The pace was even faster than stages three and five, Avanti was the only professional team in the race and they knew that everyone’s legs were dead, so they made it as hard and draining as possible. The cross winds were pushing everyone into the gutter.

Our team were sensational, they stayed in the peloton and refused to get dropped, We eventually finished 15th overall.

Out of all the events I have been involved in, the Tour of Southland has to be one of the most professionally ran.

It is also one of the hardest cycling tours in the world.

Daniel Carruthers, an ex-pat living in China, told us that in Asia, you don’t get crosswinds like here.

Daniel tours around the world doing cycling and he said that the Tour of Southland is the hardest in the world.

To all of my team and all the cyclists who have ever competed in the Tour of Southland, I am amazed at your tenacity, your strength and your courage.

There are many thousands of cyclists who would never even attempt to do the 1,000kms that you have completed in the space of only seven days.

I Hope to see you all next year.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED – Mitch Podmore feeding during the Tour of Southland.