Held for the first time in 2005, Christchurch’s Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling brings together the many sides of cycling for a weekend long celebration that sees Olympic champions rubbing shoulders with recreational riders, kids and keen club cyclists across every cycling option from road to mountain bikes and BMX.
Past winners have included world champions Greg Henderson and Katie MacTier, women’s Tour de France champion Linda Villumsen, Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston, Kiwi Olympian Cath Cheatley and Commonwealth Games medalists Mark Ryan and Westley Gough. But it is two young women who could steal the show in 2011.
In recent years Cath Cheatley, who was the top ranked rider on the American circuit in 2010, has dominated woman’s racing at the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling. But a bad crash recently sees Cheatley sidelined for the New Zealand summer, which opens the door at the upcoming Festival of Cycling for young riders.
Kate Chilcott and Emily Collins are not household names, even in cycling circles. But the two young Aucklanders have just returned from the U.S.A. where they have been racing with distinction on the American pro circuit.
Chilcott emerged as a rider to watch last year when she won the Taupo Cycle Classic aged just 19. But she built on that this year, racing for the American FCS Cycling for highlights of second place in the St Louis Dutchtown Classic and 12th in the Pennsylvania’s Liberty Classic, which is billed the USA’s premier one-day race.
Collins has raced on the same circuit for rival American squad, Team Vanderkitten-Focus. She followed Chilcott to 16th at the Liberty Classic, but excelled at the criterium format were she took several podium placings and then finished her season a win in California’s prestigious Safeway Pleasanton Criterium.
Race organiser Simon Hollander, who also organises LeRace and the New Zealand Elite Road Championships, is pleased to see New Zealand’s young internationals turning out for the domestic summer.
“The reason we organise these events,” says Hollander, “is to promote cycling and create a circuit of sorts for the top talent. Events like this offer something for everyone from recreational riders and pro’s to kids, so it promotes and inspires every aspect of cycling. The fact that top riders get this and are keen to turn out is great for the sport.”
The Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling kicks-off on Saturday December 3rd with the 90k Waipara Challenge. Waipara activities also feature the Frog Rock mountain bike ride and the Benchmark Homes Junior Challenge, where hundreds of kids aged eight to 13 will take in a fun 12k on safe and scenic roads behind Waipara Township.
On Sunday December 4th the action moves back to Christchurch for the Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium, which this year brings an exciting taste of Euro-style racing to Canterbury University.