More than 1500 riders, both elite and recreational, are expected for this weekend's Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling. The two-day event, scheduled for December 5 and 6, features an 80k road ride around the Lyttelton Harbour bays and an inner city criterium around the Oxford Terrace café strip.
Timaru's Marc Ryan and Invercargill's Tom Scully will line up in Christchurch still buzzing from their success last week at the UCI Track World Cup in Melbourne. Racing against the world's best, they paired up to take gold in the 40k Madison event. Ryan also teamed with his Beijing Olympic bronze medal teammates to take bronze again in the team pursuit, but it was Scully who provided the sensation when the still only 19 year old won the 15k Scratch Race ahead of Olympic finalists and the current world champion.
Ryan and Scully are expected to team up again in some fashion when they race the Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium this Sunday. The exciting Oxford Terrace circuit has been a happy hunting ground for Ryan in the past. Three years ago he won the Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium after breaking away mid-race with Olympic teammate Hayden Roulston. Last year he finished second after breaking away with another Olympic teammate, Westley Gough.
With Ryan's experience on the course and Scully in the best form of his life, the duo would be hard to beat if they choose to team up against what is a top class field. But they won't have it all their own way.
Christchurch's own Hayden Godfrey is a criterium specialist and the current national club champion, and 2008 world champion on the track will be keen to take a prestigious win on home soil. But seasoned pro's such as Tour of Southland winner Heath Blackgrove and New Zealand time trial champion Robin Reid will be looking to shake things up, as will New Zealand's latest road star, Takaka's Jack Bauer, who recently finished second to Godfrey in the national club championship and second to Blackgrove in the Tour of Southland.
Created five years ago, the Festival of Cycling concept of bringing world class and recreational cyclists together for a weekend celebration of the sport has been a big success. The event welcomes riders of all age and ability and last year attracted 1700 entries.
Racing starts on Saturday with the 80k Avanti Long Bays Classic and Armstrong Motor Group Harbour Ride, the Benchmark Homes Kid's Mini-Bays, plus a new mountain bike event over 35k on the iconic Port Hills trails. On Sunday the action moves to the Oxford Terrace café strip for the exciting Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium, which as well as elite racing also includes events for kids and beginners.