The New Zealand Cycle Classic’s standing as the country’s only UCI registered tour is reflected in the quality of two Australian professional teams entered for next month’s 25th edition of the event in the Manawatu.
The Australian national team, Jayco-AIS, and Drapac Professional Cycling, both with UCI Continental status, have joined the impressive United States-based Pro Continental team, Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis, whose participation was announced a few days ago.
Jayco’s Patrick Lane is back after finishing second in last year’s classic through Wellington and the Wairarapa, 38 seconds behind overall victor, George Bennett, of Nelson, and he should be among the favourites to win the January 25 to 29 event. Lane will be joined in the Jayco squad by Damien Howson, the new Oceania time trial champion, and a stage winner and yellow jersey wearer in Germany’s Rundfahrt international tour.
The AIS team has had a huge influence in Australian cycling, producing exceptional numbers of international performers through its high performance programme. Five AIS riders have won the classic in Wellington and the Wairarapa, one of the world’s premier stage riders Robbie McEwen, Corey Sweet, Hayden Bradbury, Matthew Lloyd, and, most recently, Travis Meyer.
“Over the years we have seen how professional the team is,” said race director Jorge Sandoval. “They bring young riders to our events who are already junior world champions, and a couple of years later many of them are racing for top European teams.”
Drapac is one of the more successful Oceania teams, and competes with distinction each year on the Asian circuit.
Sandoval expects to be in a position in the next few days to confirm the entries of two more UCI-registered Australian teams, and later the line-ups in the New Zealand teams. The latter will include the rapidly improving Pure Black squad, whose performance continues to attract attention given its lofty ambition to establish itself in the sport’s hot-bed, Europe.
“I’m very happy that the better Australian teams continue to regard the NZ classic as an important part of their international race programmes,” Sandoval said. “They know the racing will be tough given the hilly nature of most of the stages, and the opportunity to compete against many of New Zealand’s most promising riders. I won’t be surprised if another great Australian talent emerges during the classic.”
The first stage is an individual time trial around Palmerston North’s Massey University on Wednesday, January 25. Over the next four days the riders will climb a lot in stages up to 160km in distance around the Manawatu. Sandoval has taken the classic into the region for the first time thanks to the support of the Palmerston North City Council and Sport Manawatu.