Tour of Southland Photo Essay - Braden Fastier
We embedded NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year, Braden Fastier, into the Oxford Edge cycling team to capture the blood, sweat and tears of their Tour of Southland story in a way you’ve never seen before.
Oxford Edge are a development team and this year they brought former Tour de France pro Hayden Roulston on board to mentor the riders.
Southland is NZ's most challenging tour, pitting elite riders against each other over seven days in some of the most varied terrain and weather.
Back-to-back hilltop finishes such as the Remarkables and Bluff Hill are typical. And Oxford Edge leant in to the challenge with Camden Feint riding into the U23 leader's pink jersey on Bluff Hill.
It's the moments behind the scenes that tell the full story of what goes into a tour performance. A massage in a dimly lit motel room, spare wheels stored anywhere there's room, a quiet word of encouragement from an adoring mum.
There were two stages on the final day which saw riders recovering and warming up on the roadside and empty carparks between stages.
The individual time trial is the loneliest stage.
Even with the team car behind, there's nothing that can be done to ease the pain of the 13 km stage of truth.
As the team see the checkered flag for the last time they can finally relax, perhaps for the first time in a week, and begin to reflect on their achievements, the breaks they made, and missed, and the experience they've gained.