McCauley set for record-equalling 22nd tour

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2014
Gordon McCauley
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

FOCUS: Gordon McCauley competes in last year's Tour of Southland.

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Gordon McCauley is on track to ride a record-equalling 22nd Tour of Southland in November despite a potentially career-ending crash earlier this year.

The 42-year-old broke his right leg and smashed his left kneecap after hitting a fence during a stage race in February, the worst injuries the former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist had suffered in a 27-year race career.

"I was back on the bike four weeks after I crashed but it was literally only for five minutes at 30rpm. I'm racing this weekend in a mini-tour in the Hawke's Bay and it will be my first A-grade race back," McCauley said.

"I'm still not back. I had the wire and screws removed from my left knee two weeks ago. Up until then I couldn't really stand on the pedals or carry the pedal stroke across the top.

"In my right leg, I smashed the tibia to pieces so that's still held together by a big plate and nine screws, and that will be in there until mid-next year. My right leg was just hanging on by muscle and tendon - when you are going to crash, you have to commit."

McCauley, who runs his own coaching business, will bring a GMC Coaching-Hawkins team south for November's SBS-sponsored tour made up of some of the riders he mentors.

Only team-mate Logan Moore will have ridden the tour before, while McCauley, who won the tour in 1996 and 2005, will equal the record held by eight-time winner Brian "Chook" Fowler.

"[Fowler] started 23 but didn't finish the 23rd and this year is my 22nd. I can't beat him for wins but I can for starts and finishes," McCauley said.

"From what I understand, I'm miles ahead of where I'm meant to be. I'm feeling all right; I'm a couple of kilos lighter than when I crashed and that's because I have a watts per kilo number in mind to do the Tour of Southland. I won't get back to the wattage I did before I crashed, so I need to be lighter."

Another incentive for McCauley will be the introduction of a silver jersey, a new classification for riders over 40 years of age.

"I'm not there to be packfill; I'd sooner come down and stand on a corner with a flag than be packfill.

"They've introduced a silver jersey for over-40s this year and I don't know any other over-40s in the country who would be able to live with me in the Tour of Southland. [The jersey] will match the hair I've got at the moment. I've added a few silvers since the crash," McCauley joked.

Race director Bruce Ross said the idea of an over-40s classification, to be sponsored by Stonewood Homes, had been kicked around for a while.

"I see there's a couple of over-40s in the Tour de France now, including Chris Horner, who rode a couple of tours [in Southland]. We didn't want to detract from the other classifications but it's the old thing about age being no barrier."

This year's Tour of Southland, running from November 2-8, will include the same course as last year, including the hilltop finish at Coronet Peak.

Discussions are continuing regarding potential changes for next year. Ideas being put into the mix include a stage finish further into Central Otago and a return stage from Alexandra to Gore.

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- The Southland Times

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