The Kenyan Riders Downunder team will make their first visit to Aotearoa in January when they line up to race in the New Zealand Cycle Classic, an elite men’s road cycling race held entirely in the Wairarapa.
The Kenyan Riders Downunder (KRD) team, made up of Australian, New Zealand and Kenyan riders has confirmed their attendance today to take part in the only UCI Sanctioned international stage to be held in New Zealand in 2016.
The team will race against England’s JLT Condor and the already announced ONE Pro Cycling team, the first ever professional Continental road cycling team to come out of Britain, in the five-stage race to be held entirely in the Wairarapa from January 20th – 24th 2016. More international teams will confirm their attendance over the next two weeks.
NZ Cycle Classic race director Jorge Sandoval welcomes the international teams and says KRD will bring variety to the traditionally Australian-dominated event.
“This is great Christmas present for us to be able to confirm the previously announced One Pro Team and now the JLT Condor and Kenyan Riders team, these teams are doing a very extensive training camps right now and I am sure they will be ready to race late January” said Sandoval.
KRD is the amalgamation of Kenyan Riders and Pro Team Downunder and is being driven by team manager Stewart Crowley. It is led by former New Zealand time trial champion and winner of the 2015 Tour of Okinawa Jason Christie; Nick Miller, Morgan Smith, Nathan Elliot and Kenyan Suliemen Kangangi. Sandoval says Suliemen Kangangi will be the first ever Kenyan rider to race in the New Zealand Cycle Classic.
“Kenya is blessed with an incredible pool of amazing world class athletes and in a few years’ time they could be a force in international cycling. I don’t know much about all their riders but for this guy Kangangi taking the mountains jersey in this year Tour of Rwanda shows he must be a pretty good hill climber,” says Sandoval.
Crowley says the aim of KRD is to provide Kenyan cyclists with the opportunity to race on the world stage, with the ultimate goal to have a competitive team racing in the Tour de France.
“We believe that as talented endurance athletes, riders from Kenya combined with the structure and experience of both the riders and management of Pro Team Downunder will be a formidable force in cycling,” says Crowley.
“Our application has been submitted to the UCI. With all supporting documentation having been submitted, including the UCI having signed off on our team kit. Our objective in the New Zealand Cycle Classic is to put forward a strong and competitive team being KRD’s first race together as a combined continental team” says Crowley.
Meanwhile it will be the second visit to the NZ Cycle Classic for the JLT Condor UCI registered team, who last competed here in 2014. Rapha Condor team manager John Herety is excited about the tour.
“We’re looking forward to coming back to New Zealand for the NZCC. We enjoyed some success the last time we came and thoroughly enjoyed our time on the race. It’s the start of our season for European based teams, the event gives a perfect opportunity for our riders to kick start their seasons,” he says.
“Coming over to the Southern Hemisphere allows these young guys to cut their teeth in senior racing at a high level without the usual pressures they would experience racing at home. New Zealand has a reputation for aggressive and very tough racing, and I think it will be ideal for our guys at this time of the year.”
JLT Condor is made up of seasoned British road riders and this year’s world teams pursuit champion Alex Frame from New Zealand, who is aiming to take the Under 23 classification jersey.
Steven Lampier is a four times Tour of Britain rider and has joined the team for the 2016 season from the British Raleigh Cycling team. The oldest in the team and the most experienced, he will be looking for a stage win or setting up a team mate at the stage finishes. He will be joined by George Atkins who has experience in stage races in Italy, France England and Germany but his strength is on the track winning multiple British titles over the last seven years. Stephen Williams and Cristopher Lawles, both British internationals, round out the team.
“We have signed the New Zealander Alex Frame who is your current Team pursuit World Champion and Olympic hopeful, so our priority will be to help him in the flatter sprint stages of the race,” Herety says. “After that we will have to see which of our riders has come out of our winter in good condition, but we hope to have one or two of our riders in a position to be contesting for overall victory of the race as well.”
The five-stage New Zealand Cycle Classic is being held from Wednesday, January 20th to Sunday, January 24th 2016 entirely in the Wairarapa.