Everyone knows the Tour de France. That almost cultish event that has cycling enthusiasts all over the world glued to their televisions every European summer. Some are such big fans, they also follow the other big tours in Italy and Spain. Then there’s what the real fanatics like to call the “Fourth Grand Tour” – the brutal, windswept, unpredictable Tour of Southland.
The cycling tour is often considered one of the toughest sports events around. It’s an event that brings together a couple of hundred lean, race-hungry cyclists, and then gets them to race every day for a week against each other over courses of about 150km per day - while also including a series of mini races within each day’s race. In fact, it’s exhausting just trying to explain it.
MitoQ was honored to be involved in the race as a sponsor of the NZ Cycling Project team, led by James Canny. James grew up wanting to be a professional cyclist himself, but after falling victim to a car crash caused by a drunk driver, he was never able to fully recover from his injuries enough to race competitively. His mission from there on has been to give those with the same aspirations the opportunity to achieve their dream. We are inspired by the team’s ‘aim high and let it fly’ philosophy, one that we adopt ourselves at MitoQ HQ.
NZ Cycling Project showed amazing perseverance in this year’s race - winning two series jerseys overall, with six riders placing in the top 10 throughout the stages. We’re incredibly proud to support this team and we’re elated to have helped power their performance and recovery during this legendary race. Watch the videos below for a wrap-up of the week.
What is the Tour of Southland?
The Tour of Southland is a race that never fails to live up to its reputation as one of the toughest around. Something that keeps bringing back teams like the New Zealand Cycling Project.
“What’s unique about this race is it’s New Zealand’s Tour de France,” says Canny. “It’s super-aggressive racing and, added to that, we’re in the deep south of New Zealand, riding out of Invercargill - which is the closest city in the world to Antarctica. This means it’s windy and incredibly changeable. And that means you need to prepare for everything and anything each day. I mean, you often see riders applying sunscreen in the morning while it’s raining outside because you just don’t know what you’re going to get.”
“There’s something new every day,” adds team captain Jimmy Williamson. “That’s the iconic selling point. And that’s why guys like Mark Cavendish, who is one of the best cyclists in the world, know about this race and its reputation. I mean, if you put this race in Europe, one guy would win a hill climb on day 1, and then his team would defend him for the rest of the days. But in Southland, the wind makes that impossible, and so you have to fight for every meter you race because any one of them can decide this race.”
How did NZ Cycling Project plan for the Tour of Southland?
So, it's obvious from the get-go that toughness is a big part of this race. But recovery is just as important – and that’s where Canny became interested in MitoQ. We were excited to see if our mitochondrial support supplement could help these top sportsmen.
“I mean, recovery is utterly crucial,” says Canny. “You see the guys after the race and they’re absolutely spent. They’ve given it everything and we have to get them back to the motel as soon as possible, get them fed, get them on the massage table because tomorrow we have to do it all again.
“It’s all about how we look after ourselves. Because every time you go out and put in effort like these guys do, you’re actually damaging your body. So, if we can get gains in our recovery from products like MitoQ, that helps us sleep, helps our bodies recover, it’s really a no-brainer. I mean, why wouldn’t you look after your body like that?”
Why did NZ Cycling Project choose MitoQ?
When it came to MitoQ’s involvement with the team, it was a conversation about support rather than sponsorship.
“What we wanted to see,” John Marshall (MitoQ’s Chief Marketing Officer) says, “was what impact our product could have on elite sportspeople. I mean, we know a lot of things from research. But to see it in action at this level was something that really interested us”.
To the delight of everyone involved, the race went extremely positively for the team. It started calmly enough, with a prologue event on the first day, before getting into the stages which took the cyclists all over the Southland region, through farmland, along the boundaries of the imposing Fiordland mountains, and into neighboring Otago where the cyclists scaled the side of the imposing Remarkables mountain range (perhaps the best-named mountain-range in the world).
And what unfolded over the week was something quite exceptional for the MitoQ-supported team.
What were the results?
Paul Wright threw the dice and got himself into the King of the Mountain’s jersey on the first stage. Then, through sheer teamwork, the team defended the jersey for the rest of the tour while also getting James Fouche into position for the Green Sprint Ace Jersey as well. So, by the time the final stage was raced, the Creation Signs-MitoQ team had two out of the five jerseys on offer won – an exceptional effort for any team at this elite level.
“This whole week’s been phenomenal,” said the team’s soigneur, Rob Dallimore, who watched the race unfold from behind the wheel of the support van. “This is one of the hardest sports you can do – every day these guys go to war and do things that most people would struggle to do for five minutes.
“It was hard to imagine at the beginning of the week that the team would go as well as it did. I mean, here we are on the final day with two out of the five jerseys – and most of the teams leave here with nothing – so we’re exceptionally proud of what we’ve achieved here this year.
“I think a lot of that comes down to the quality of recovery we’ve been able to get for the team. Every morning, they walk out of their rooms and treat each day as if it were the first. And I see it from the support van – every time there’s been a break, there’s one of our guys in it and a group of our guys covering at the front. And you can only put that down to their recovery. Because with MitoQ, you know they’re getting the best of the best and all they have to do is take the product, get their sleep, and eat right. It’s those simple things that have made life on tour so good.”
For us at MitoQ, our first year riding shotgun on the Tour of Southland was a fantastic experience. We’re proud to have been able to support the NZ Cycling Project team in such a prestigious, long-running event.