Aaron Gate today has added the Tour of Southland title to his impressive list of accomplishments but it was the disappointment of a fourth-placed finish at the Rio Olympics which provided the backdrop to his win in Southland this week.
Gate, a bronze medallist in the team pursuit at the London Olympics and a world omnium champion, said the excitement of contesting a third Tour of Southland had provided the motivation he needed after missing out on a medal in Rio.
After avoiding his bike in the weeks after the Olympics, he got back into training with Southland firmly in his sights.
"I stupidly told James Canny, our team manager, that I'd be up to try and have a crack at the title and he started to get quite excited and so did the other boys," Gate said. "To come away with this jersey is beyond words."
Gate now has his sights on more success on the road and told Radio Sport he had signed to ride for Irish squad Aqua Blue Sport in the ProContinental ranks in 2017.
He said the road will be the priority, but he will fit in the track where he can. It means the team pursuit is off limits due to scheduling, but says the omnium is an option, particularly after it was reduced from six to four events over one day which plays into the hands of a road rider more.
The 25-year-old earned his Tour of Southland victory with two big breakaways on the Bluff Hill and Coronet Peak stages. It meant he had a decent lead heading into yesterday's final stages, a time trial and then ride into Invercargill.
"That would be right up there with two of the hardest days I've had on the bike, and to do them back-to-back, I was a bit fatigued this morning," he said. "I managed to limit my losses in the time trial to my main rivals and then had the support of the team on the stage into Queens Park."
Gate (Creation Signs-L&M Group Ricoh) started the final 77km stage from Winton to Invercargill with a 2min 40sec lead over Michael Vink (Mike Greer Homes), who took out the morning's 13km individual time trial in Winton.
Despite Gate's big lead, there was still some drama on the final stage, with a big crash involving about 20 riders early in the stage. The main contenders were unaffected, as they barreled towards Invercargill at 50kmh.
Alex Frame (Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel) took stage honours after three final laps of Queens Park, with Gate winning by 2min 40sec from Vink and Dutchman Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (PowerNet) capping a strong tour with a third placing, 3min 21sec in arrears.
Four-time winner Hayden Roulston was fourth overall and fifth-placed Australian Ayden Toovey the leading under-23 rider.
Olympic rower Hamish Bond finished an impressive eighth overall.