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Record Field For Le Race This Weekend
22 Mar, 2006

Record numbers, Drag Queens and even a competitor rowing to Akaroa are amongst the entries lining up for this year's eighth annual running of 100km cycling event Le Race on Saturday.

Over 1200 cyclists lined up for last years Christchurch to Akaroa event
and Race Director Astrid Andersen of The Events Company says she expects record numbers of close to 2000 this year.

"This year's Le Race not only has entrants from throughout New Zealand but we have many cyclists from throughout the world, Europe Asia and Australia.  It is our biggest international field ever," Andersen said.

"We've got a large group from Brisbane coming lead and organised by
former New Zealand Cycling Champion Blair Stockwell which is really
fantastic."

One of the more unusual entries is Rotorua's Scott Donaldson who intends rowing to Akaroa on the road using an imported row-bike.

Donaldson teamed up with Trans-Atlantic rowing champion Ron Hamill in
last month's Coast to Coast where they used the row-bike for the first time.

The bike uses the same muscles and actions as a rowing boat and the pair put in a credible performance in the Coast to Coast finishing 13th in the open men's team section.

With support from One Square Meal and Scenic Circle Hotels Donaldson
says he is looking forward to tackling the hills between Christchurch and Akaroa.

The bike has been imported From the Netherlands by Auckland Human
Powered Vehicle company Life Cycles and is worth about $5000.

"You need rowing skills, but it's not quite like you would normally row.
The action is slightly different and you need a fair bit of balance as well - I certainly get some interesting looks."

A quirky new category will see dresses fly and make up running as New
Zealand's first Drag Queen of the Mountain title will be contested for in this year's event.

Organisers say they expect broken nails, runny make up and drag queens to face some tough decisions on what to wear on the day but say it will be hilarious as they expect some real competition to claim the inaugural Drag Queen of the Mountain title.

Wellington entrant Andy Maloney is looking forward to the drag queen
competition.  "I'll be wearing a new body-hugging lycra frock, designed by drag legend Polyfilla - sort of a reduced-drag, drag outfit.  That
should keep me ahead of the competition" he said.

A Coffee Culture King and Queen of the Mountain will be crowned for the first time as points will be awarded to the first four up the Sign of the Kiwi and then for the first five up the Hill Top hill climbs. The first male and female receive $1000 each.

The first climb comes early in the event which Andersen says will mean
cyclists employing different tactics this year as they attempt to grab
maximum points in the King and Queen of the Mountain to win the $1,000 available for the first male and female.

"We'll see a much faster pace early on that will mean the field will
spread out over a greater distance much faster than in previous years,"
she said.

In previous years speed down Colombo Street during the first six
kilometres of racing has been controlled by a lead vehicle, but this
year it will be race on from the moment the hooter sounds in Cathedral
Square.

Andersen says this combined with the extra pace and effort to contest
the King and Queen of the Mountain should mean the race record of two hours and forty eight minutes will come under threat.

King of the Mountain cycle racing has been made famous with its
importance in the Tour de France, the world's largest sporting event
outside an Olympic Games, and in keeping with the positioning of Le Race as "New Zealand's own slice of a mountain stage of the Tour de France" Andersen says it was a natural progression to include it in the event.

Race patron and former Commonwealth Games medallist and Olympian Brian Fowler beat Australian based Kiwi Jaaron Poad to win last year with a time of 2hr 48min 15sec. After suffering mechanical problems Mark Bailey finished third, nearly three minutes behind.

After winning the event twice in the past Bailey is keen to make amends this year event but will face tough competition from Jeremy Vennell, Commonwealth Games track cyclist Hayden Godfrey, Fowler, Queenstown Cyclist Stephen Popenhagen and a number of leading local elite riders including good hill climbers Brad MacFarlane, Scott MacDonnell, Oliver Pearce and Andrew Widdup.  

Vennell has been in fine form over the summer and should set the pace
for the leaders. He was leading last Novembers Tour of Southland until a controversial decision by organisers to stop a critical stage due to
high winds saw the leaders jersey change hands.

Godfrey is the strongest rider in the field but is not known for his climbing ability in long endurance races, and much will depend on how
well he has recovered after racing on the track in Melbourne last week.

Multi sport legend Steve Gurney is a late entry and is teaming up with
former foe in the Coast to Coast Andy McBeth to ride a tandem in the
event. Gurney and McBeth did battle did battle many times that saw
Gurney  win the Coast to Coast on nine occasions with McBeth winning it once.

Leading local female rider and former New Zealand representative
Annaliisa Farrell was fastest female last year with a time 3hr 15min
34sec and will be hoping local knowledge counts as she lines up against
leading Australian cyclist and former world ranked junior triathlete
Josie Loane from Brisbane.

After recently switching from triathlon Loane finished 7th in the Australian road championships and although missing out on the  Australian Commonwealth Games team is tipped for a bright future.

Farrell and Loane will have to off challenges from last year's runner up
Gina Waibl from Wellington and top local riders Tracey Clark, Nienke
Podmore and Nimesha Smith.

There are over $40,000 worth of prizes up for grabs in this year's
event, including trips to Paris with Singapore Airlines and the Tour de
France with kiwis@letour and there is a 'Le Taste Akaroa' post event
festival in Akaroa Domain with live entertainment, music and commentary on the events progress.

Entries for the event are being taken right up until 9pm on Friday
night.  Race pack pick up is between 9.00am - 8.00pm Thursday and 9.00am - 9.00pm Friday at Miles Continental Volkswagen showrooms in Tuam Street Christchurch.

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