Central Otago riders competing

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Central Otago will have home-grown talent competing in the Tour of Southland this year.

Liam Aitcheson, who is the team leader, Hamish McHugh-Smith (18), both of Alexandra, and Jordan Gilmore, of Cromwell, will join Jacob Grieve, of Mosgiel, Luke McDermott and Flynn Lewer, of Wellington,make up the Central Benchmakers-Willbike team.

Coach James Williamsonsaid the three Central Otago riders were competing well in other events and at the level of the Tour of Southland, which created the opportunity for the team to compete in the tour.

Williamson said Central Benchmakers had also come on board, which had provided the riders with the opportunity.

“Shane Ramagebe the manager on the ride. He’s got behind them to provide them with the opportunity. It costs a bit of money.”

Aitcheson finished fifth in last year’s tour of Southland, and won the Coronet Peak stage.

Williamson said Aitcheson was a great asset to the team and that he raced professionally for Avanti.

McHugh-Smith is the youngest member of the team at just 18.

The tour would be a step up for the Dunstan High School pupil, as it was the first year he would be able to compete in a race of this kind, Williamson said.

The third Central Otago rider, Gilmore, is a lecturer of the Bike Mechanics Course at Otago Polytechnic’s Central Campus.

“He’s a really strong and keen rider,” Williamson said.

Having a Central Otago team in the tour had always been a goal for Williamson and Ramage, and having riders at the level to compete had made it possible.

“There’s always been good riders from Central Otago, but it’s hard to do it by yourself. Having a little bit of support makes a huge difference. It gives them a bit of a pathway to elite riding in new Zealand.”

The closest the riders would come to Central Otago was up Coronet Peak, which is on Wednesday next week.

The tour would start this Sunday in Invercargill, Williamson said.