The prestigious Tour of Southland, New Zealand’s major road cycling event – won by Westlaker Mike Northey – last year, is underway with a peloton of 146 national and international riders battling each other over seven stages. Two of the hardest stages of the tour are stage two and four. Stage two, up the legendary Bluff Hill, is probably the only New Zealand climb where seasoned pros get off their bikes and push them to the finish where stage four finishes with the road to the top of Coronet Peak, a climb of 721m in only 8.4km.
Kiwi cyclists and Westlakers James Oram (Kiwi Velo – Armstrong Prestige) and Taylor Gunman (Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers) took out these hardest days on the road. James climbed his way into the yellow jersey with a victory on Bluff Hill and Taylor powered up Coronet Peak for a stage victory, with James finishing in third place to retain the yellow jersey. Defending champ Mike (Kiwi Velo – Armstrong Prestige) is currently in 26th position on the leaderboard.
Mike Northey was at Westlake from 2000-2004 and as one of the top performing senior cyclists represented the school at national level, winning several individual and team competitions. After school he raced in the New Zealand Development Squad before moving to France in 2006. He raced two years in Belgium with an amateur team and three years in the USA including a spot on the PureBlack Racing team. He is currently based in the UK and rides for Britain Node 4 Giordana. Amongst his many career highlights are the victories of the 2012 Tour of Southland, the 2012 Lake Taupo Classic as well as coming first in the 2012 New Zealand Criterium Championships and second at the 2013 New Zealand Criterium Champs. A recent riding accident while out training two weeks ago means that the defending Tour of Southland Champion will be playing a support role for fellow Westlaker and teammate James Oram during this year’s event.
Taylor Gunman was at Westlake from 2004-2008 and was a very capable student, showing maturity and leadership skills from an early age. In his first two years at school he played rugby and captained the top junior teams to North Harbour honours. He started cycling in his second year and it soon became clear that he was a talented rider, winning Most Talented Junior Rider in 2006 and Most Talented Senior Rider in 2007-2008. In his final year he was a prefect and Cycling Captain and represented the school at national level, winning several individual and team competitions. After leaving school Taylor raced both nationally and abroad as part of the Pure Black Racing team for a number of seasons before basing himself in Belgium with Teva. Taylor was recently recruited by Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers, arguably Australia’s top team and races internationally.
James Oram, a quiet top academic achiever and sportsman, was at Westlake from 2006-2010. He represented the school in cycling, setting a great example for fellow riders never missing early morning trainings or cycling events. During his time at school he represented New Zealand for three years winning many national age-grade titles and team events. He was the undisputed U17 New Zealand champion in 2009 and gained a world ranking in Cycling in 2010. In his final year he was a prefect and Westlake’s Cycling Captain, winning the North Harbour, Auckland and North Island titles with his team. After finishing Westlake James set out to follow his dream to become a professional rider, racing all over the globe for one of the world’s leading U23 teams, American based Bontrager Cycling Team. This year he raced in the Tour of California, the hardest event in the States which is contested by the very top pros in the world. Only a handful of Kiwis have had the chance to race in this event.
Westlake is fortunate to have its old boys involved. Westlaker Chuck Buckley from Kiwivelo – long-time backer of the school’s cycling team has been involved with Westlake’s team for the last four years “It’s great to see these top cyclists spending time with the Westlake cycling squad when they are back in New Zealand. They always manage to come in and have a chat or look after the Westlake boys when they are out riding”.
Westlake Boys High School and Westlakers wish James, Mike and Taylor all the very best for the next stages of the Tour of Southland and hope to see the Westlakers on the podium on Sunday.
If you hear any news of Westlake Old Boys or former staff or if you are interested in supporting Westlakers events and activities, please contact Mrs Christine O’Dowd at school on 09 410 8667 or by email [email protected].