Jones doing family proud on Tour of Southland

Stage winner Bissell rider Carter Jones crosses the line during the PowerNet Tour of Southland, day five, stage five, from Te Anau to Crown Range.
Stage winner Bissell rider Carter Jones crosses the line during the PowerNet Tour of Southland, day five, stage five, from Te Anau to Crown Range.

When Carter Jones' family in New Jersey finally get their electricity and internet back on following the devastation of superstorm Sandy, they will discover he is on the verge of making history on the other side of the world.

The Bissell Pro Cycling rider leads the Tour of Southland by 29 seconds from Node 4-Subaru's Mike Northey, the man he stripped the yellow jersey from during a one-sided battle up the Crown Range hillclimb yesterday.

Jones could become just the third foreign rider in 57 years to win New Zealand's most prestigious stage race, and the second United States cyclist after double-winner John Lieswyn (2002 and 2004).

The 23-year-old admitted he wasn't sure how family in his native New Jersey were coping with events of the past week while he has been wrapped up in the bubble that is a week-long bike race.

"They'll be in for a nice surprise when they get [the power] back and check the results."

Jones leads a race he vowed he would never take part in after hearing how tough it was from the New Zealand and Australian riders he has met.

"I thought, I'm never going to go down there and race that; it sounds miserable and it's the end of [the season]. It's quite atypical but I'll take a nice vacation down here afterwards and I'm really looking forward to it."

Based in Boulder, Colorado, a high-altitude hothouse for endurance athletes from around the world, Jones has ridden for the Jelly Belly team at continental level and the Trek Livestrong development team before joining the Bissell trade team where he rides with New Zealanders Paddy Bevin, Jeremy Vennell and Michael Torckler, and under manager Glen Mitchell.

A former runner-up in his national under-23 road race, Jones' victory yesterday made up for the disappointment of losing to double-stage winner Bevin on the way from Te Anau to Queenstown due to illness.

"We wanted to make it as hard as possible, to give me the best shot on the climb. We hit the front with about 10km to go . . . and they brought me into the bottom [of the hill], top three," Jones said.

"With 1km to go I was like, well, they did all that work for me, I better give it a shot and I had good legs, so it worked out."

Northey was resigned to losing the yellow jersey in a 180km stage which didn't really suit his racing style. "It was a really tough day," Northey said.

"We had three guys on the front all day and they did an amazing job.

"For me it was just to try and hang on for as long as I could on the climb and limit my losses.

"Carter attacked and that was me. I can't climb, I can ride my pace and that's about it."

Having held the lead for two days, Northey hasn't given up hopes of winning in Gala St tomorrow as the race contemplates a forecast of strong winds during today's stage from Invercargill to Gore. "The next few days are going to be tough," Northey said.

"[Today] is going to be a very hard day to defend, judging by last year. We've got a strong team for the wind and a day that will suit me more. It's not over yet."

Four-time winner Hayden Roulston had targeted yesterday's stage with sponsor Calder Stewart going to great lengths to ensure his bike could be repaired after he damaged a rear hanger earlier in the week.

The new part was couriered from the North Island to Lumsden, where it was then helicoptered to Te Anau in time for the stage start.

The drama had an anti-climatic end when Roulston punctured with 10km to go, just when he was about to launch his assault.

The Southland Times