Southland visit waits for 18-year-old Mitchel Fitzsimons to be over

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18-year-old Southland rider Mitchel Fitzsimons is set to embark on his first SBS Tour of Southland when the 2021 race kicks off on Sunday.

Kavinda Herath / Tips

Southland rider Mitchel Fitzsimons, 18, is set to embark on his first SBS Tour of Southland when the 2021 race kicks off on Sunday.

It was in 2017, at the age of 14, that Mitchel Fitzsimons got his first glimpse of the SBS Tour of Southland.

It was also the moment when a burning desire was triggered.

The up-and-coming cyclist left his South Canterbury home for Invercargill in 2017 to approach the SIT Zero Fees velodrome.

He was living with Danielle Ralph, then a staff member of Cycling Southland, who put him in the 2017 Tour of Southland job of sitting in the back of a motorcycle and recording split times.

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-Mitchel Fitzsimons participating in the <a class=World Road Cycling Championships in Belgium in September.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Jo Groenevinger / Tips

-Mitchel Fitzsimons participating in the World Road Cycling Championships in Belgium in September.

“I could see all the action right in front of the peloton. This is probably the best place to watch it. It really motivated me. “

In recent years, the teenager has followed teams in the van to help cyclists when needed.

Each year this eagerness to get on the bike himself during the tour has increased.

He’s now 18 – the age required for riders to participate in the tour – and that couldn’t have happened soon enough for Fitzsimons.

On Sunday, the adopted Southlander will have the opportunity he was looking for when the 2021 race kicks off at Invercargill.

The SBS Tour of Southland was a special race for many New Zealand cyclists, and he was delighted to be able to participate.

“It’s just the hype, all year round, that’s what everyone is talking about. All over New Zealand [cyclists] are talking about it. You’re overseas talking to other Kiwis, and they can’t wait to get home and run.

Initially, Fitzsimons was organized to form a team with a group of cyclists based in Waikato and Auckland. However, with Waikato under the Covid-19 Alert Level 3 restrictions, these runners were unable to make the trip south.

On Wednesday, Fitzsimons joined the PowerNet team for his first Tour of Southland.

His main task will be to try to help his teammate Ollie Jones who will be after a yellow jersey shot from the Tour of Southland at the end of the race on Saturday 6 November.

The build-up wasn’t ideal for Fitzsimons given he just came off a 14-day stint at MIQ last week.

He had ridden in Europe, which included his participation in the World Road Cycling Championships in Belgium.

He finished 50th in a junior category of 178 men.

Fitzsimons spent a lot of time riding an erg during his time at MIQ, but expected him to be at a bit of a disadvantage heading into the Tour of Southland.

“Coming out of a big season and then spending two weeks alone in a hotel room isn’t great, but it’s still a good opportunity to have fun.

The opening day of the 2021 tour on Sunday will look quite different.

The tour will begin with the traditional team time trial around Queens Park on Sunday, but this year it will be followed by a new 42km street race, comprising ten laps of Queens Park.

The time trial will start at 12 p.m. and the first 42 km stage at 3 p.m.

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