Organisers have plans to bring the Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling back to Christchurch to inject some international cycling racing action back into the city which they say will have some real benefits for Christchurch.
The event, which started in 2005 and has been running for nine years, started with the Saturday road race held on the iconic harbour bays route, and was followed by a criterium on Oxford Terrace on the Sunday.
Winners include world tour riders Greg Henderson, Hayden Roulston and Jack Bauer and leading female professionals Linda Villumsen, Cath Cheatley and Rushlee Buchanan.
Since the earthquakes the Festival’s Saturday events have been held in Waipara, North Canterbury with the Sunday criterium events held at the University of Canterbury.
“We had to make those location changes after the earthquakes as we had built up such a good event with a really good annual quality field - no one wanted to see it not happen,” Festival Director Simon Hollander said.
“But the intention has always been to bring it back to Christchurch when we can, which won’t be this year but we are hopeful it won’t be too far away.”
But after three years based in Waipara and at Canterbury University Hollander says the tough call has been made to not hold it this year, opting to now wait until it can be once again held in Christchurch.
“We have had a fantastic group of sponsors, supporters and riders that have believed in the event and stuck with us through thick and thin, a true testament to their commitment to cycling,” Hollander said.
“The Festival quickly became the must do event in Christchurch featuring the Classic Long Bays ride, the popular Kids Mini Bays and the fast, spectator friendly inner city criterium. It was amazing to have riders just bike to the start line or walk down with their kids to watch the world class racing.”
Event numbers were over 1700 before the earthquakes but Hollander says it hasn't been the same since shifting to Waipara and the university.
“We have always had exceptional support from the elite and recreational riders and the close, tight racing in the criterium always had New Zealand's best cyclists riding. Winners over the years featured our top cyclists that included Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallists and world champions.”
Richard Evans from Benchmark Homes said the company was avid supporters of cycling and was looking forward to when it could be held again in Christchurch.
“It would be really great to promote the benefits to Christchurch and the community by being able to have it centrally in the city again,” Evans said. “It brings riders and supporters from throughout New Zealand to Christchurch and has really helped put the city of the national cycling map. It would be a great boost for the city to have in back in town.”