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Wairarapa: Cycling’s great playground

Wairarapa’s hosting of the 2017 New Zealand Cycle Classic alongside the Huri Huri Bike Festival has received the tick of approval from the Swiss-based Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), and from participating teams.

Appointed to officiate the 30th anniversary of the event held across the entire Wairarapa region last week was Zac Prendergast and he was impressed with the event’s organisation, the quality of the racing and the environment in which it was held.

Labelling it as “very successful” Prendergast said the classic benefitted from the close collaboration between New Zealand Police, race marshals, race organiser Jorge Sandoval and other officials and he also praised the actual racing, saying the fourth stage, in particular, was a classic with all the elements of “weather, attacking teams and positive racing”.

Established 30yrs ago by Sandoval, the NZCC was originally staged in Wellington.

For a time it was jointly raced in Wellington and Wairarapa, before moved to the Manawatu.

It returned to the Wairarapa last year and is the only UCI-sanctioned race being held in New Zealand in 2017.

Prendergast, who himself was part of a combined team which contested the classic in 1988, said having the event staged wholly in the Wairarapa was good for a number of reasons, including having all teams based in a single hotel for the duration of it.

“Wairarapa is a great playground.

“I’ve raced in 14 or 15 different countries and the roads here are perfect.

“They are quiet, they allow us to race competitively, they allow for the safety of the riders and the police protection we receive is wonderful.

“The fact the riders can be based here for the whole time means their support members, like the mechanics, can concentrate on their job rather than pack and unpack all the time.

“Having no transfers makes life easier and I know the teams love that.”

These comments are echoed by John Herety, a former English road cyclist who represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games and who is now manager of the English-based JLT Condor team which finished third on the teams’ classification points table — headed by IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness — and won three out of five stages.
“We were really pleased to come back to New Zealand and we thoroughly enjoyed our time here.

“It’s a wonderful event and we can’t wait to return next year,” Herety said.

For Jorge Sandoval the logistics of staging an event like the NZCC were “complex and extensive” and he gave special praise to the police who helped make it safe for riders and to all race officials, sponsors and the general public for their support.

Sandoval said his aim each year was to make that tour better than the last and the 2017 edition had fulfilled those expecations

Reflecting on the racing Sandoval said it was “full on” with the average speed on stage four being 46kph.

The top speed was 106kph down Te Wharau hill.

And while the weather was not kind on the first day it had got better as the week wore on.

Sandoval was also delighted with spectator interest this year and the increased community engagement for which the Huri Huri Bike Festival was a big influence.

“We had spectators lining the course on the outskirts of Masterton for the final stage, we haven’t seen that in the past and it was great to see.

“People are now realising this is an international race which is exciting to watch.

“The race atmosphere just gets better each year.”

Sandoval said the Huru Huri events also helped reinforce the fun of cycling, from a participation angle right through to watching riders compete at an elite level.

A classic illustration was at Martinborough where a big crowd watched the BMX freestyle display and then cheered the NZCC riders over the finish line.

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