Queenstowners will get their annual chance to get a glimpse of some of New Zealand’s top road cyclists next week.
The 67th SBS Bank Tour of Southland will roll into the resort next Wednesday, finishing the gruelling fourth stage near the top of The Remarkables access road.
Nineteen teams are fielding 114 starters in the annual race, which officially gets underway on Sunday in Invercargill.
Race director, Glen Thomson, a former Commonwealth Games medallist on the track and national champ on the road, has opted to retain the same course used in recent years under former race director Sally Marr.
Thomson notes drawing the 108km fourth stage, which starts at Mossburn, back from Queenstown — in previous years it’s finished variously at Coronet Peak and the top of the Crown Range zig-zags — was a great idea.
‘‘That doesn’t mean we don’t impact on Queenstown.
‘‘We certainly didn’t think there was anything about the race that needed changed to make it better.
“We’ve driven the course and it certainly hasn’t gotten any easier.’’
Thomson says the 14km climb to near the top of The Remarks access road is one that’s not just a defining point in the race, but could be a defining point in a rider’s career.
‘‘It’’s a European-level climb.
“There’s a reason that guys who win that stage get interest from professional teams, because they can put their data across and say they are a proper climber.’’
Famously, that stage was won in 2020 — the first time it ended at The Remarks — by Queenstown pro cyclist Reuben Thompson, the only local rider in the field, who was fresh out of quarantine.
The field’s expected to finish next Wednesday’s brutal stage about 1.20pm.