The Tour of Southland is like no other race in the world. Rain, wind and potential carnage are the ingredients for every stage. The race consists of 9 stages in 6 days. Three days consist of a morning and afternoon stage. Lots of fun when you add in that rain and wind....
Stage 1 - 8km Team Time Trial:
The BISSELL boys for the Tour are Pete Latham, Jeremy Vennell, Ben Jacques-Maynes, Cody O'Reilly and Omer Kem. The first stage of Southland is always a Team Time Trial. Rain and wind at the start made things interesting but clearing conditions helped the team to ride strongly on the square shaped circuit. Two laps were complete to make for 8km of race for the stage.
The team rode well to finish 3rd out of 25 teams. The highest placed BISSELL rider was Jeremy Vennell in 8th place and everyone in the top 15. These results were also for the GC since this was the first stage of the tour. The team was motivated by this result and was looking forward to the stage that afternoon which was an 82km race with a hill top finish.
Stage 2 - 82km Invercargill-Bluff:
Stage 2 of the Tour of Southland was a 82km race consisting of a 60km loop west of Invercargill before heading through town and racing east to Bluff Hill. The BISSELL boys were excited about the lack of rain, but knew that with severe wind the race would be on!
A neutral start got things going followed by a series of sprint lines, a long tail wind section, and a left turn. This turn has proved decisive in past years and the team was ready. The race split but another turn into a headwind brought the race back together. At this point a small breakaway group of 3 riders was established and gained a minute lead. The BISSELL team was always represented in the front and soon a series of lefts and rights put the team back in the tailwind.
This is where things got crazy even for the Tour of Southland. A crash over a small bridge left 80 riders lying in the road. Jeremy Vennell was caught under a pile of bikes and bodies for almost 5 minutes in what has been called "the worst crash in Southland history". The split at the front of the race had brought back the breakaway at this point, but neutralization by the race officials stopped the 4 BISSELL riders in the front group. It took over 30min for the race to be brought back together. Jeremy Vennell was bruised but able to continue.
The race resumed and proceeded back through Invercargill and headed east to Bluff Hill. Severe cross winds caused splits in the peloton. The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team took advantage of the hard conditions to place 3 riders, Jeremy Vennell, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Pete Latham in a group of 18 to start the climb. Jeremy Vennell rode amazingly considering his crash to place 5th! Ben Jacques-Maynes also impressed with a 7th place and Pete Latham finished 15th. These impressive results moved Jeremy Vennell and Ben Jacques-Maynes into 4th and 5th overall with Pete Latham in 10th. BISSELL Pro Cycling also was able to move into the lead in the Team Classification, something that is very important to the team and riders. A hard day ended well for everyone in the team. Tomorrow is a 165km from Invercargill-Gore. Stay tuned for more updates and great results from the BISSELL Pro Cycling Team…