Judge still enjoys helping out - 30 years on

BACKROOM WORKER: Murray Thomas, long-time Tour of Southland supporter and man behind the scenes.
BACKROOM WORKER: Murray Thomas, long-time Tour of Southland supporter and man behind the scenes.

The Tour of Southland gets under way this week. Bridget Railton takes a look at the people behind this popular Southland event.

Thirty years is a long time to stick at something you were roped into by a friend, but that's exactly what Tour of Southland cycle judge Murray Thomas did.

Mr Thomas, who works as a supervisor at Alliance Lorneville, has been a judge in the annual bike race for about 30 years.

As a judge, he is responsible for following along in a car, and counting off cyclists as they go past for the time trials.

"The only reason I got involved was I was asked by a mate, Bruce Ross, if I could get a car together." he said.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Normally, with the eye of the public steadily focused on the race and the competitors, backstage goings-on stay firmly behind closed doors.

However, Mr Thomas said there were more than a few things the public don't know about.

Of his 30-year involvement, one event in particular stood out.

"Really the only faux pas, and we still say we were in the right, was a couple of years back.

"The riders were coming up to Otautau towards Riverton. One of the stages we had that year was up Fairfax hill. We had set up on the top of hill waiting and after a while we starting thinking that they should be here by now.

"We look over and see they've gone up the other hill, Isla Bank, instead.

"When you're standing on a hill waiting and they're coming up the other, that wasn't a good thing. Luckily we had someone who could get over there and get them as they went past."

"We were in the right. We were following what was said in the programme."

With all those years' experience under his belt helping out, one would be forgiven for assuming Mr Thomas is a cyclist himself.

"No definitely not," he asserts, agreeing that cycling should be left to those in lycra.

The Southland Times