Auckland-based Dan Gardner has become the first Englishman since 1957 to win the Tour of Southland.
Gardner finished eighth in this morning’s 13km individual time trial to cut his lead to just 15 seconds going into the final 77km from Winton to Invercargill, but his young PRV-Pista Corsa team-mates took him safely home this afternoon .
New Zealand endurance rider Nick Kergozou (Southland Transport Engineering-Deep South) won the final sprint in Gala St for his first ever stage win on his home tour, while Gardner won by 15 seconds overall from Joe Cooper (Central Benchmakers-Willbike ) and 45 seconds from Boris Clark (Quality Foods Southland).
“We had to run our hearts out as a team, and even in the time trial it came down to the little details where we were busy in the bike shop talking to our sponsor PRV and getting the handlebars sent in so that we can pull all the tricks. off the book,” Gardner said.
“In the end it came down to grit. It was a real Southland day and I’m really happy to pull it off.”
For the first time this week some of the crosswinds the Southland tour is famous for were on offer, stretching the peloton to the limit as they tried to overcome Gardner’s advantage over the final furious blast into Invercargill.
“We didn’t really believe it was going to happen until the last pedal stroke. I’m very happy and I’m proud and I’m grateful to my teammates, the team managers and all my friends and family.”
Gardner moved to New Zealand two years ago to follow his Kiwi girlfriend and ex-cyclist Kate Wightman, who is currently walking the Te Araroa Trail to raise money and awareness for gynecological cancer.
Before taking to the track next week, Gardner will be able to reflect on a race in which he won the Bluff Hill stage for the second time in as many years and finished third on the Remarkables climb to set up his overall victory.
“I love that climb (Bluff). I have a real affinity for that last corner. This whole race brings out the best in me, it’s a great platform to perform and race your heart out and I’m pretty happy . to be here.”
Gardner paid credit to the young riders from Auckland and Cambridge – Ed Pawson, Joel Douglas, Kyle Aitken, Matt Davis and Maui Morrison – who helped him get over the line.
“I was working in a bike shop a few years ago when Tim, the owner of PRV, came in and I was correcting a few pounds and putting an end to my cycling. these young lads and that’s completely on his head because they are helping me,” Gardner, who followed in the medal tracks of 1957 winner Tom Tindale as English winners on the Southland Tour.
“I’ve been following Southland for years now, even back in the UK before I had a Kiwi girlfriend and I knew about this race. It has such a wide reach around the world – I never thought I’d get my name on this championship, but I’m so happy.”
Ollie Jones (PowerNet) won the Fairest jersey on the final stage, with Kergozou picking up his third Sprint Ace win in Southland and Max Campbell (C Brown Builders-Olphert Contracting) the King of the Mountains jersey.
Camden Feint (Oxford Edge) was the leading under 23 rider, while Cooper was placed first over 35 riders, with Quality Foods Southland winning the Team Ranking.
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