Talented teen steps into SBS Bank Tour of Southland unknown



Double junior track world champion Laurence Pithie is stepping into the unknown when the 64 th SBS Bank Tour of Southland cycle race gets underway at Invercargill on Sunday.
2019 UCI Junior Track World Championships. Photo credit: Guy Swarbrick

At just 18 years, Pithie is one of the youngest in the 102-strong field, tackling 836km of racing with 4,600m of climbing over the seven days.

Pithie is also one of the most exciting young prospects, having already tasted some elite success. He will defend his Vantage New Zealand Criterium crown around the streets of his home in Christchurch in three weeks' time.

His exploits, including gold medals in the madison (with Kiaan Watts) and the omnium as a first-year junior at the 2019 UCI Junior Track World Championships, gained some attention and led to signing a contract to ride for the development team of World Tour giant, Groupama FDJ next year.

It was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing year spent mostly training in Christchurch. He had initially signed with the Jumbo Visma development team for three months in the Netherlands, but lasted a week after he arrived at the onset of the coronavirus.

His plan was to springboard from his European road experience to chase more gold at the UCI Junior Track Championships in Egypt which were cancelled among the plethora of Covid-19 sporting castoffs.

“My three-month trip was a week and a half – I had barely unpacked. When I arrived, there were three Covid cases and when I left there were hundreds,” said Pithie.

“But that’s changed with the deal to go to FDJ. I have not done anything on the road but they have taken a lot of faith in me and willing to back me. It is such an awesome opportunity and hopefully a good progression for me into their World Tour team.”

An upside is that Pithie has been able to increase training volumes and is looking forward to joining his local Christchurch team sponsored by Circuit Asphalt, with the company’s co-founder, Mitchell Sincock, included in the line-up along with Pithie’s brother Campbell, the experienced Reon Nolan, Max Beckert and Jeremy Inglis.

“I am hoping to get some good experience. If I can snag a stage win, I would be really happy with that. That is what I will be hunting.”

The race begins with a 4.2km team time trial in Invercargill on Sunday.