New Zealand sports fans will be treated to top-level road cycling next week when the New Zealand Cycle Classic is held in the Wairarapa.
The international five-stage tour, being held from January 20th – 24th, is a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) 2.2 accredited tour and has attracted a top field of elite male riders says Race Director Jorge Sandoval.
“This year’s field is beyond my expectations with 90 riders representing a total of nine overseas teams as well as nine New Zealand teams. This event is Oceania’s only UCI 2.2 international cycle tour so to have such strength of riders is great,” says Sandoval. “All Australian and English teams have been racing at the highest level for the last month and will arrive race-fit. With the hilly course we have prepared for them around the Wairarapa, only the fittest will survive.”
Leading the charge is the first ever Professional Continental road cycling team to come out of Britain featuring three New Zealand riders and two British riders. One Pro Cycling will make their world debut in the Wairarapa next week and give spectators plenty to cheer about with new time trial national champion Hayden McCormick and Kristian House, the latter who is regarded as a legend of the sport in Britain, in good form.
Also from England and making it their second attempt at the NZ Cycle Classic title is the JLT Condor UCI registered team. JLT Condor is made up of seasoned British road riders and world teams pursuit champion Alex Frame from New Zealand, who is aiming to take the Under 23 classification jersey.
Among the favourites to win this year’s Classic title is the Avanti IsoWhey Sports, a UCI registered team and previous winner of the tour in 2013 and 2015.
However they should be challenged by six high-quality Australian teams including Data#3, GPM, State of Matter, Kenyan Riders Downunder, Cobra9 Racing and Olivers Real Food team. They are made up of experience tour riders and will present a strong challenge to any of the other top UCI registered teams.
New National Road Cycle champion Jason Christie will be one of the riders to watch from the Kenyan Riders Downunder team. Christie has been a twice stage winner in the Classic and after last weekend’s stunning performance in Napier where he broke away from the peloton to win the national title, he is in top form.
Nine New Zealand teams have entered the Classic including a strong NZ national team lead by 2014 tour winner Michael Vink and 2015 Tour of Tasmania and tour of Southland winner Brad Evans. Meanwhile the Trust House cycling team is led by 2010 winner and professional rider Michael Torckler while the NZCT team is led by international Tim Rush and supported by strong riders from England and Australia.
“To have the first ever Professional Continental road cycling team to come out of Britain plus JLT Condor racing in New Zealand is a big deal,” says Sandoval. “People from around the world follow these teams via social media. On top of this, the other UCI registered teams from Australia, the New Zealand national team and the other eighth local team will make this 2016 NZ Cycle Classic a hotly contested event”.
Sandoval is also expecting new talent to emerge during the event which gets underway at 10am on Wednesday, January 20th 2016 from the Copthorne Hotel & Resort Solway Park in Masterton.
“Each year the Classic unearths new talent, and a number of those riders go on to win stages in the Tour de France, the Tour of Italy and world championships. We are also grateful for the continuous support from Trust House and NZCT to the event and the sport of cycling. Their support enables young up and coming New Zealand cyclists to get the experience of competing against top rider’s right here in our own country,” says Sandoval.
He is also predicting that stage four, on Saturday January 23rd will be crucial in deciding the overall winner. Sandoval says stage four includes a cluster of demanding hill climbs and if the Wairarapa turns on one of its hot, sunny summer days he predicts it will take riders four hours to complete the 152.2km course that finishes a top of Admiral Hill in Gladstone.
“Cycling is gaining momentum in New Zealand, and as race director I look to design stages that are going to test the riders and attract public interest. Tour racing is a test of strength, stamina, and endurance, and I’m really happy I’ve been able to lift the demands on the riders a further notch or two by including a few tough hills on the race route,” says Sandoval.
The 29th New Zealand Cycle Classic runs from January 20th – 24th 2016. With all the colour, drama and excitement of world class cycling, it will provide a unique showcase for the whole Wairarapa region when it is screened on TV both nationally and internationally.
Complementing the Classic and being held simultaneously is Huri Huri: Wairarapa’s Bike Festival which celebrates the Wairarapa’s bike-friendly roads, tracks and trails; the people that ride on them and the bikes they ride. ‘Huri Huri’ comes from the Maori word Huri meaning to turn over, to revolve and to spin. The 2016 Festival (www.hurihuri.co.nz) has a variety of events and activities held across the region, catering to all levels of involvement in biking and to all ages.