Two time Olympic rowing champion turning cyclist Hamish Bond has targeted this year's Tour of Southland as an important building block towards his goal of making the Tokyo Olympics.
"The tour has given me something to keep me focussed and motivated in the short term, otherwise it would be easy to put the bike on the rack and enjoy being at home for a while. If I'm going to enter something I want to give the best account of myself that I can," Bond said.
Bond has competed in the Tour of Southland twice before.
In 2009 before concentrating on his rowing career where he combined with Eric Murray to dominate the men's pair and again in 2016 shortly after ending his rowing career with gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"I think I consider myself a cyclist now, it's fair to say that's how I view myself at the moment. I feel a bit more confident in my ability and more aware of my ability - knowing what I can do and what I can expect from myself, which I think is quite important," the 32-year-old said.
"It's not quite love, hate, but the tour is a big challenge and I'm looking forward to taking another step up from where I was last time. When I came down last it was just after the Olympics and I'd only been cycling a month or so."
Bond will be part of a strong Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel team headed by defending champion James Piccoli, from Canada.
Bond recently finished 25th in his specialist time trial event at the world championships in Austria, improving on his 39th on debut in Norway the previous year.
"I was hitting my targets as I was riding and I hoped that that performance would have me a little higher up the leaderboard and I guess that was a reality of the depth and level of international cycling," he said.
"The guys at the top are there for a reason and have honed their craft over a long time and I'm trying to get up there quite quickly. I guess the reality was that I'm still a way aways. I'm competitive, but to be truly challenging the top 10 or the podium, which is the ultimate of what I would dare to dream to achieve, there's still a long way to go."
Since coming home from Austria, Bond has spent more time on his road bike than his time trial machine and entered bunch races around the Waikato to reacquaint himself with the politics of the peloton.
He will draw on his experiences from the 2016 Tour of Southland, including knowing how to protect himself from the conditions after suffering badly on one particularly cold day.
"I really like an honest challenge and that's what you get in Southland. I remember we had one cold day and I thought I would have revelled in that, but I hated it and when you are cold your morale can go out the door really quickly, but I think two years on I'm more prepared and can take advantage rather than wanting to get off my bike and go home."
The stunning ascent up Coronet Peak and the short time trial on the final day loom as potential targets.
"I felt like I performed well last time up Coronet Peak, which is contrary to being 80kg plus, which most people consider an obstacle - I think obstacles are largely in the mind," he said.
"Also the time trial is something I've been working on for a while now and feel as though it's something that I'm relatively adept at on a national level, although this is something different given that it's shorter and on road bikes."
The 62nd edition of the Tour of Southland gets underway with the team time trial around Invercargill's Queens Park on October 28th, finishing back in Invercargill on November 3rd.