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Unpredictable to call

By Gary Caffell

Race organiser Jorge Sandoval is hedging his bets as to who will take away the individual title in the 2017 New Zealand Classic.

It’s not that Sandoval is afraid of being proved wrong, just that he knows that the different make-up of this year’s event, which runs through from January 22 to 26, plus the high calibre of entry, means predictions can all too easily go awry.

Having the two hilliest of the five stages on days one and two rather than nearer the end clearly changes the dynamics of the event as it means those riders who are strong on endurance but maybe weaker on sheer speed will have to make their presence felt practically from the word go.

“Those who love the hills can’t afford to hang back, if they want to win the tour they’re probably going to have a decent advantage of at least two or three minutes over the quicker guys going into the last three days,” Sandoval said.

“And obviously the speedsters will have other ideas.”.

Ask Sandoval to rate the quality of the 2017 field and he has no hesitation in labelling it the best for the NZCC, and probably better than ever assembled for any tour in this country, period.

“I know that’s a big statement but just look at the calibre of the riders we have… you’ve got people who have been on the podiums at the Olympics and other major events all over the world, you couldn’t wish for anything more.”

On the team front, those Australian-based traditionally do well in the NZCC and Sandoval is anticipating them being prominent again although he can see the Colombians making an impact, especially on the hills.

As to the Kiwis he feels that national road champion, Joe Cooper, could be a “dark horse” for individual honours.

“He’s obviously in top shape and if he gets the right type of support from his team he could be a big threat.”

Sunday’s first stage of the NZCC goes from Masterton to Castlepoint.

The start is at 10am at Copthorne Solway Park and the field will head north towards Mauriceville before returning to Masterton via Whangaehu Valley and Te Ore Ore-Bideford road.

At Te Ore Ore the riders will turn left onto Castlepoint Road and head to the finish in Castlepoint.

Monday’s second stage takes in the torturous Te Wharau and Admiral Hills with stage three on Tuesday being from Masterton to Martinborough.

It will finish there with eight laps of an 8km circuit.

Stage four will take in all five Wairarapa townships and finish near the Martinborough Square and the fifth and final stage on Thursday will involve 12 laps of a 10km circuit, starting and finishing at Mitre 10 Mega in Ngaumutawa Road, Masterton.

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