Cycling: Blackgrove in yellow after Tour prologue

Tour Leader Heath Blackgrove of Waimate looks on after the prologue stage of the Tour of Southland. Photo / Getty Images
Tour Leader Heath Blackgrove of Waimate looks on after the prologue stage of the Tour of Southland. Photo / Getty Images

Heath Blackgrove started the 2012 Tour of Southland exactly the same way he finished it in 2009 - in the yellow jersey.

Blackgrove, riding for PowerNet, crossed the line first in the team time trial around Invercargill's Queens Park in the cold and windy conditions that have come to be expected of the Tour, and he was pleased to take the yellow jersey on the opening day.

"We had a great ride, everyone was smooth which was key and we're pretty happy to come away with yellow," he said.

"We didn't talk about getting yellow, we talked about having a good smooth ride and to leave it all out there. It was pretty blustery out there in a couple of parts, you had to pick your lines."

Blackgrove won the Tour in 2009 and has been based in America for the past two years. He joins a young and strong PowerNet team which includes Ryan Wills, Shane Archbold, Cam Karwowski, Myron Simpson and Tom Scully.

PowerNet rider Josh Atkins won last year's Tour, and Blackgrove thought having a team that knew how to defend the yellow jersey could prove invaluable.

The team time trial was a close affair, with PowerNet finishing narrowly ahead of Calder Stewart and Subway Pro Cycling. Blackgrove, while happy to be back in yellow, admitted there was a long way to go.

"It doesn't change much, it was only 4km in what is a long week, but it's a great way to open up the legs and get the nerves out of the system."

Fellow PowerNet rider Myron Simpson will go into stage one leading the under-23 classification, while Calder Stewart's Michael Vink picked up the sprint ace jersey.

Tour director Bruce Ross said this year's field signalled a "changing of the guard".

"There are some very good riders in this field," he said. "I think Blackgrove is looking good, he's had a pretty solid year by all accounts. The Bissell team, they're not coming here for a holiday and they are led well by Jeremy Vennell.

"There are some good development riders coming through and they are stamping their mark nationally and internationally, which is exciting. New Zealand is producing some good riders."

- APNZ

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