Bevin keen to go one better on Tour

PLEASED AS PUNCH: New tour leader Paddy Bevin salutes after winning stage one of the Tour of Southland yesterday.
PLEASED AS PUNCH: New tour leader Paddy Bevin salutes after winning stage one of the Tour of Southland yesterday.

Bissell Pro Cycling's Paddy Bevin will try and climb Bluff Hill during the second stage of the Tour of Southland today despite the combined weight of expectation and the yellow jersey on his young shoulders.

The 21-year-old could have left Invercargill 12 months ago as an all-conquering hero, a Tour of Southland champion, despite still being firmly in the junior ranks.

Unfortunately for him, his path crossed that of 19-year-old Josh Atkins, who became the youngest rider to win the race, relegating Bevin to runner-up and relative obscurity.

With Atkins missing this year's PowerNet-sponsored edition, eyes naturally turned to the talented Taupo rider to see whether he could go one better in 2012.

He delivered on that promise yesterday, launching himself off the front of a hard-charging mass sprint up Lumsden's main street to win his fourth Tour of Southland stage in his third visit to the province.

"I've got a few tricks up my sleeve, so to win a stage early . . . doesn't take pressure off, but as the week goes on it shows we are here to race," Bevin said.

Bevin's sprint was convincing enough that he had time to flash a "no deal" gesture as he crossed the line, an in-house joke at the expense of team-mate Jeremy Vennell.

"We picked up the win today and it's a really nice feeling. Certainly I felt as people looked around they knew I was there to sprint and we didn't make any bones about it.

"We had a guy riding all day to make sure when it came to the crunch we were racing for the W."

Bevin's stage win saw him take over the yellow jersey courtesy of the winner's 10sec time bonus, with a 3sec advantage over a six-strong group including overnight leader Heath Blackgrove and Southland rider Cameron Karwowski.

Fellow Southlander Pieter Bulling (Ascot Park Hotel-Kia Motors-NZ Bike Magazine), who has undergone a career revival including a strong season in Belgium, was third on the stage, with Daniel Barry (Node4-Subaru) second.

Karwowski, Tom Scully (PowerNet) and James Williamson (PureBlack Racing) have given Southland three riders in the top 10 after the first day of racing.

Bevin has a sprinter's physique, but he proved he's capable of igniting a climb last year when he finished third on Bluff Hill, less than 30sec down on stage winner Hayden Roulston.

"I've said it all week that Bluff's a prestigious stage to have in your CV. We've come here to race, I'm not the only one who is riding well, but we'll certainly queue up and have a go," Bevin said.

"[Bluff Hill] is only eight minutes of grunt and it's not like we are doing 30km high altitude canyon climbs."

Bissell team manager Glen Mitchell, a winner here in 2000, said the stage victory had been a nice bonus on top of a controlled ride to start the tour.

"It looked like it was going to be a bit windier today on paper with the forecast, but once we got out there it wasn't as strong as we initially thought. For us, the day was about trying to conserve energy, staying hidden and then obviously pulling things back at the finish," he said.

Earlier in the day, a seven-strong break spent the majority of the 160km stage from Invercargill through Western Southland to Lumsden enjoying the breeze, the warmth and the snow-capped Takitimus in the distance.

It was welcome sunshine for at least one tour spectator at Birchwood with the hoggets finally getting shorn nearly a month later than normal after consistent rain during October.

The riders certainly appreciated the change, with Joe Chapman taking the opportunity to claim all four hill climbs for an early lead in the King of the Mountain classification he won last year, and in 2006.

Australian rider Sam Witmitz dominated the sprints to take hold of the sprint ace jersey.

The Southland Times