The Trust House Cycle Classic’s standing as New Zealand’s only UCI registered tour is reflected in the quality of four Australian professional teams entered for next month’s 24th edition of the event in Wellington and the Wairarapa.
Australian national team, Jayco—AIS, Genesys Wealth Advisers, and Drapac Professional Cycling, all with UCI Continental status, and the newly formed Suzuki are confirmed, and given the consistent success in this event of riders from across the Tasman, the tour’s overall winner might well come from their number.
They include Drapac’s Lachlan Norris, who was second behind surprise winner Michael Torckler, of New Plymouth, and king of the mountains, in January’s event. Drapac is one of the bigger Oceania teams, and classic race director Jorge Sandoval is an admirer of its professionalism.
“We have seen how professional the team is,” Sandoval said. “One of its riders, Peter McDonald, won in 2009, and Norris almost produced a repeat performance in finishing just five seconds behind Torckler in January. Drapac will come well prepared with a full backup of masseurs, a mechanic, and a coach.”
A feature of Norris’s riding since January has been his continued strong performances on the climbs, a strength so crucial to success in the classic. His team-mates will be last year’s Australian under-19 road champion Michael Phelan, Stuart Grimsey, Adam Phelan, and Patrick Drapac.
Team Jayco—AIS has had a huge influence in Australia producing exceptional numbers of top international performers through its high performance programme. Five AIS riders have won the classic, one of the sport’s best stage riders Robbie McEwen, Corey Sweet, Hayden Bradbury, Matthew Lloyd, and, more recently, Travis Meyer. Another AIS rider, Michael Matthews, a stage winner in this year’s tour, has gone on to bigger things. He signed with the Dutch Rabobank Pro Tour team for next year, and he won the under-23 title at the world road championships in Melbourne in October.
Multi-race victor Richard Lang will be the team’s No.1 rider this time, alongside another proven racer Malcolm Rudolph, a former winner of the Grafton to Inverell classic, and Patrick Lane, Nick Aitken and Jay McCarthy.
Nathan Hass, who competed with distinction in this year’s classic, is a member of the Genesys Wealth Advisers team along with the well-performed Jonathan Lovelock, the 2010 Grafton to Inverell classic victor Nathan Earle, Matthew Marshall and Steele von Hoff.
Champion Australian age-group mountain biker Michael Baker is the Suzuki team’s principal rider. He will be accompanied by David Deery, Marc Williams, Ben Hill and Stephen Bomball.
Sandoval expects to name two more UCI-registered overseas teams in the next few days, and eventually the New Zealand team line-ups, which will include the new Pure Black squad, whose performance will be watched with particular interest given its lofty ambition to establish itself in the sport’s hot-bed in Europe.
“I’m very happy the leading Australian teams continue to regard the Trust House 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 top riders. I won’t be surprised if another great Australian cycling talent is discovered in the classic in January. ”
The tour’s first stage is from Upper Hutt to Masterton via the Rimutaka Hill on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 (the Rimutaka hill road will be closed to all other traffic from 2pm to 3.30pm). The next three days will be in the Wairarapa, including racing up the exciting Admiral Hill, and the classic concludes with a criterium on the streets of inner-Wellington on the afternoon of January 30, 2011.