New Zealand track cycling representative Nick Kergozou has carved a small piece of history for himself on the opening day of the 67th SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
The 27-year-old, a bronze medallist in the team pursuit at the world championships in Glasgow earlier this year, came home a narrow second in the 42km stage one street race around Invercargill’s Queens Park today to claim the tour leader’s orange jersey for tomorrow’s opening road stage from Invercargill to Lumsden.
The orange jersey has replaced the yellow jersey formerly worn on the tour in acknowledgment of long-time race sponsor SBS Bank, with Southlander Kergozou (Transport Engineering Southland-Deep South) getting to wear the new kit for the first time as it heads out onto the open road.
“It gives me a lot of pride,” Kergozou said.
“There’s been a lot of New Zealand track team mates wearing this jersey and it’s pretty special. My coach was in this jersey this morning, so to take it off him and take it into the next stage is quite cool.”
Earlier in the day, Quality Foods Southland won the 4.2km team prologue around Queens Park with New Zealand track coach Boris Clark earning first use of the leader’s jersey.
The afternoon saw the 114-strong peloton make the most of the fine and breezy conditions to blast their way around the 42km street race, with Otago’s James Gardner (Central Benchmakers-Willbike) showing his power when he broke away with one and a half laps to go, holding off the chasing pack for a stage win in his debut Southland tour.
It was an outstanding effort by the New Zealand junior world track championship representative, just weeks after he won the under 19 section of the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland.
Gardner’s power was enough to catch out experienced campaigners like Kergozou.
“We wanted a bunch kick, thought we were in with a chance at the end there, but didn’t acknowledge that James was off the front,” Kergozou said.
“That caught me a bit by surprise at the end and I was a bit too far off the front at the last corner. I skidded my wheel out and then just attacked hard at the end, had plenty of pace but I’m happy to be second and have the leader's jersey.”
Gardner trails Kergozou by just one second and leads the under 23 classification, with PowerNet’s Kiaan Watts in third place overall.
Despite being the first open road stage of the race, tomorrow’s 166km stage from Invercargill to Lumsden is considered by some to be the hardest of the week and features a challenging gravel climb over the Glenure hill.