Rosters for New Zealand domestic teams, the newly formed Meridian Cycling, and the more familiar Ricoh, have come together for the New Zealand Community Trust Cycle Classic of the Manawatu from January 23 to 27.
Meridian is lead by a former New Zealand criterium champion, Alex Ray, sometimes referred to as the “Pocket Rocket”. Ray, who started out in the Auckland Grammar School third form cycling team, has extensive national and international experience, and a lot of success. He is back home after a six-month stint in Belgium with the Bianchi Lott NHT team when his biggest win was in the Profande Van Lommel criterium in Belgium.
“Alex is a fast finisher who the other sprinters in the field will be wary of,” race director Jorge Sandoval said. ”Don’t be surprised if he finishes the Classic as a stage winner and with the overall sprinter’s jersey.”
The team also has a hill climb specialist in fellow Aucklander Logan Mort, twice a winner of the king of the mountains in the Tour of Tahiti, and third on the hills in the 2010 Tour of Brazil. The other team members are a former national under-23 road champion Matt Wheatcroft, also of Auckland, Gisborne’s Callum Gordon, and Pete Smith.
Part of the tour route is on Saddle Road close to Meridian’s Te Apiti wind farm. The site manager for Te Apiti, Hamish Scott, says Meridian is thrilled to be helping to host the event. “We’re thrilled to have these champion cyclists in the Meridian cycle team. It’s a great event for the Manawatu and Te Apiti wind farm”.
The Ricoh lineup is headed by Otago brothers Joseph and Tim Chapman. Joseph, now in his 30s, has been a dominant force in Otago road cycling, and a veteran of numerous Tours of Southland. Auckland lawyer and a past Subway team member Nic Lovegrove, 2009 New Zealand track cyclist of the year Sam Steele, of Christchurch, and elite triathlete Tom Francis, of Wanganui complete the team. More recently Steele has been competing on the tough criterium circuit in the United States.
“It’s good to see these domestic teams so well organised and prepared,” Sandoval said. “They are both capable of upsetting the plans of the more fancied Australian professional teams.”