Leading Australian professional cyclist Carla Ryan has been joined by five time National road cycling champion and Commonwealth Games medallist Gordon McCauley as entries build for Le Race being held on Saturday 20 March.
McCauley will be joined by his Subway – Avanti Cycling team mates Michael Vink, Ryan Wills Samuel Horgan and Joe Cooper in the 100 kilometre race.
Vink, 18, is fine tuning his racing prior to heading overseas on the 22nd of March to ride for a Belgium club team for six months.
The18-year-old Christchurch rider has had a series of strong results including a fine performance at the RaboPlus Elite Nationals in January where he convincingly won the under 23 year old time trail and after making a break on the second lap of the road race remained clear until the final circuit. He also won the tough local hill climbers event the Riccarton Clinic Main Divide on 6 February.
"Michael is a talent," the Subway – Avanti Cycling team manager Greg Hume said. "Riding for a club team in Europe is an important step towards his goal of making it as a professional rider, joining the likes of Hayden Roulston and Greg Henderson on the pro tour."
"We have five riders entered for Le Race with Joe Cooper our best climber but you know Gordy (McCauley) is Mr consistent and always gives a race everything and I wouldn't rule out Michael either."
The Subway – Avanti Cycling Team is New Zealand's only UCI Continental team and organisers say having five members of its squad enter the event has added real spice to the men's field that also includes last year's Le Race Coffee Culture King of the Mountain winner, Paul Odlin, who was seventh, four minutes behind winner Jeremy Yates, and last year's third placed Brett Dawber now riding for the benchmark Homes team.
They are joined in the men's field by well performed locally based riders Anthony Chapman, who placed third in 2006, James Gibson, Brad McFarlane who was second in 2004, Josh Atkins, Clark Richards, Scott McDonnell and former American professional John Lieswyn.
The experienced Odlin has raced in New Zealand colours overseas, and was part of Hayden Roulston's team in two of his Powernet Tour of Southland wins. Chapman has also represented New Zealand in the past.
Due to some health issues Dawber has had time off the bike this summer as has top New Zealand junior Atkins who is coming back after surgery.
The 42 year old Lieswyn may have left his former pro racing days behind but the two time Tour of Southland winner, who raced professionally with Greg Henderson in the Health Net team in the United States prior to retiring, should still make his presence felt.
The 24 year old Ryan won the woman's event in 2007 and last year convincingly won the Australian time trial title for the second time in three years as well as the elite woman's road race to record a rare double victory.
Based in Queensland, Ryan races for European professional team Cervélo – Lifeforce and is currently in Australia preparing for her European season that starts in late April.
Ryan could not defend her Australian titles this year as she had to attend a team camp in Portugal but says she is looking forward to competing in Le Race again this year.
Rachel Mercer from Wellington will provide some resistance for Ryan. The 21 year raced professionally in Europe last year with Hitec, performing well in the senior ranks after impressive junior results. She has had good recent form with a fourth in the RaboPLus Elite National Championships in January and had a top 20 finish in a strong NZCT Women's Tour of New Zealand last month.
Three time female winner Jo Buick rode her last professional cycle race in Europe in late 2006, and since retiring has focused on family and work commitments, but should still be competitive in the event.
New Zealand based Danish multisporter Sia Svendsen has recently turned more of her attention to road cycling, and although she says she has lots to learn finished in the top 10 in January's elite nationals and performed well in the recent NZCT Women's Tour of New Zealand.
With entries still open until Friday 19 March organisers are still expecting entries from more of New Zealand's top riders. But with event entries capped at 1000 Event Director Simon Hollander stresses the need to enter soon to avoid the disappointment of missing out.