Blackgrove happy to start in yellow
Waimate's Heath Blackgrove and his PowerNet team-mates will start the Tour of Southland the way they both finished it - with the yellow jersey - when the race gets under way with its first road stage today.
Blackgrove hasn't raced the Southland roads since he won the tour in 2009, but he didn't do things by half that year, marrying former Southland triathlete Sharyon Johns only hours after crossing the finish line.
Since then a few things have changed - like most of the course and the size of the teams in the PowerNet-sponsored race - while the Texas-based Blackgrove has been busy building a professional racing career in the United States and starting a family, with a baby daughter now part of the entourage.
PowerNet, which has Southlanders Tom Scully and Cameron Karwowski and Shane Archbold and Myron Simpson backing up from last year, rode Josh Atkins to the tour title in 2011, defying the challenges from much more experienced opposition to defend the yellow jersey through the second half of the week.
Blackgrove will take a 2sec lead into today's 160km stage from Invercargill through Western Southland to the stage finish in Lumsden, with riders including Hayden Roulston, from Calder Stewart, and Roman van Uden, from PureBlack Racing, sharing second place.
Bissell Pro Cycling's Jeremy Vennell and Patrick Bevin are 7sec in arrears.
"The PowerNet-Cycle Surgery guys had a nice ride, we were nice and smooth out there," Blackgrove said following last night's 4.2km time trial around Invercargill's Queens Park.
"We didn't go in there with the object of winning the team time trial but we aren't going to turn down yellow. The guys rode well and this is a great reward."
Blackgrove said he had been looking forward to coming back to Southland after a three-year break.
"It's always nice to come down here. It was hard leaving my wife and our little girl Sofia, who's just turning 10 months old. It's great to be back amongst the Southland people, to be honest," he said.
"I only decided not that long ago to do (this race). Thankfully, Aaron (Sinclair) and PowerNet-Cycle Surgery picked me up. "
Blackgrove is back in New Zealand after a successful season of racing with a continental team set up as a passion project by US MotoGP star Ben Spies, with the squad getting its name from his unorthodox "elbows out" riding style on the motorbike.
"We are a second year team with Elbowz Racing, we've set some pretty lofty goals this year and by far exceeded them," Blackgrove said. "We're happy, we've opened some eyes and stunned some teams in America and hopefully we are securing sponsors for next year and we can continue to grow."
TODAY'S STAGE Southland District Council, 160km. Starts Stadium Southland velodrome 10am. Invercargill-Wallacetown-Wright's Bush-Thornbury-Otautau-Orawia-Ohai-Nightcaps-Mossburn-Lumsden. Finishes in Diana St, Lumsden about 2.10pm. firstname.lastname@example.org For updates during this year's Tour of Southland, follow Nathan Burdon on Twitter #TourofSouthland. Go to southlandtimes.co.nz for additional coverage including daily videos and photo galleries. Tour of Southland Prologue results: PowerNet 5:04.5 1; Calder Stewart 5:06.1 2; Subway Pro Cycling 5:06.2 3; PureBlack Racing 5:06.6 4; Node 4-Subaru 5:10.6 5; Ascot Park Hotel-Kia Southland-NZ Bike Mag 5:11.4 6; Bissell :5:11.5 7; Share the Road 5:14.5 8; H&Js Outdoor World-Avanti Plus 5:18.6 9; Stewart Imrie Financial Services 5:19.2 10; Creation Signs-L&M Group Racing 5:19.2 11; Olphert Contracting-McKenzie Craik 5:22.9 12; Barry Stewart Builders-Gordon McCauley Coaching 5:24.0 13; Southsure Insurance Team 5:24.6 14; Henderson Construction Ltd 5:26.7 15; Team Hydraulink 5:28.5 16; Team Polygon 5:28.8 17; The Southland Times 5:37.1 18; Ultimo 5:38.0 19; Southern Institute of Technology 5:39.4 20; Versatile Homes and Buildings 5:42.9 21.
The Southland Times