Thompson ready to get out on the road

Reuben Thompson. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Reuben Thompson. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Rising Queenstown cyclist Reuben Thompson will get out of quarantine one day and ride in the Tour of Southland the next.

The 19-year-old fledgling professional has been holed up in a hotel in Auckland for the past two weeks.

He is due to "escape" managed isolation this morning and will fly to Queenstown, "do a load of washing" and then drive to Invercargill to join his team, Vet4Farm, for the start of the tour.

It gets under way with a 4.2km team time trial around Queens Park.

Thompson’s preparation has not exactly been ideal. After all, hanging clothes out on the line is not particularly useful for the gruelling week ahead.

And then there is the two weeks he spent more or less confined to his hotel room with just his exercycle for company following his return from competing in Europe.

Actually, it is not an exercycle, really. It is his bike, some high-tech rollers and a very sophisticated piece of equipment which allows him to simulate all types of racing.

It cannot simulate the driving rain or the buffeting wind the Tour of Southland is renowned for, though. And it is not a great conversationalist either.

"Isolation is going as well as it can be," he said.

"I’ve got my bike in here and I’m busy enough riding every day and trying to keep sane."

Thompson has achieved his big goals for the season.

He recently signed a contract to ride for the development squad of the Groupama-FDJ Continental team. It is one of the leading UCI World Tours teams.

But that does not mean he plans to take it easy on the Tour of Southland.

"I’m really hungry to win that stage up The Remarkables. I grew up in Queenstown and since I was 13 or 14 my bread and butter session was riding up that climb as hard as I could.

"It is my favourite climb in the world and I know it super well."

Last season, in his debut on the tour, he crashed early on during the Coronet Peak stage, but rallied to finish sixth.

He also struggled in the crosswinds on the final stage.

"I was fourth in the general classification and leading the under-23 going into the final stage last year.

"But I lost it all on the final stage back into Invercargill. We turned right into some crosswinds and there was a split.

"I tried to get across the gap but just did not have the legs to get there and lost two and a-half minutes in about 20km.

"If I’m going to lose time that is where I’ll lose it, so I’m going to have to be super vigilant this year.

"I’m not going to let that happen again. I’m 10-times stronger this year and I’ve been racing non-stop for the past three months in Europe.

"And I know the Kiwi guys have not had a hell of a lot of racing, so I’m hoping I can do something cool."

Defending champion Michael Vink is chasing a third consecutive title and shapes as the rider to beat, though.

He hopes to join Tino Tabak, Brian Fowler and Hayden Roulston as the only riders to achieve the feat.

Vink is riding for the Transport Engineering — Talley’s team, which retains the core of riders and staff from his 2019 team.

The climb up The Remarkables has replaced Coronet Peak as the big mountain day.

It is a longer and steeper climb and a golden opportunity for the strong climbers like Thompson.

Tour of Southland

Tomorrow: 4.2km team time trial 
around Queens Park
Monday: Stage 1, 151.1km, 
Invercargill to Gore
Tuesday: Stage 2, 148km, Riverton to 
Te Anau
Wednesday: Stage 3, 116.km, 
Mossburn to The Remarkables
Thursday: Stage 4, 157.5km, 
Invercargill to Bluff
Friday: Stage 5, Invercargill to 
Lumsden
Saturday: Stage 6, 13km, Winton 
individual time trial
Saturday: Stage 7, 77km, Winton to 
Invercargill

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