Cycling: Sam Gaze swaps tyres for Tour of Southland

Defending champion James Piccolli has triumphed up Bluff Hill to win stage four of the Tour of Southland.

The final contenders on the steep climb included mountain biker Sam Gaze, who's riding the famous race with half an eye on the future.

It's a different path for cross country mountain biker Gaze.

"One day, hopefully I can move to skinny tyres and follow my dream in that sort of direction," said Gaze of his aspirations to make the switch.

The chance to ride the Tour of Southland coming after he broke his wrist during a World Cup in August.

But his focus for the next few years remains the mountain bike, where he has a strong rivalry with fellow kiwi Anton Cooper.

He'd probably prefer that didn't include the controversy around his gold medal ride at the Commonwealth Games.

Gaze accused Cooper of poor sportsmanship for not slowing when he had a flat tyre.

He's put that drama behind him, and the goal now is building enough UCI points to ensure they can both ride in Tokyo.

"We've got two Kiwis now who are - on their day - the best in the world on the mountain bikes.

I think it's really important that we focus on getting both Kiwis there, because on a perfect day either of us could be Olympic champion."

The change of scenery is doing him no harm as he currently sits third overall on the tour.

Teammate Hamish Bond coming home in second after Piccoli, with Michael Vink taking third to retain the yellow jersey.