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Black Spoke favoured in classic

Aaron Gate winning stage one of the 2020 NZ Cycle Classic. PHOTO/DAVE LINTOTT

CYCLING

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy are warm favourites to win the five-stage New Zealand Cycle Classic which started yesterday in Masterton.

Black Spoke, New Zealand’s only professional Union Cycliste Internationale team, took team honours in the 2020 tour, while 2019 champion Aaron Gate finished second in the general classification.

The team’s build-up to this year’s tour started with a two-week training camp in Wairarapa in October to familiarise themselves with the region’s roads.

While here Black Spoke also competed in a race of the Trust House North Island Team Series.

Victory in the prestigious Tour of Southland followed in November, with Gate winning the general classification, and teammates James Oram finishing third, and Luke Mudgway sixth.

“It would be great to take out the overall win and stage wins along the way,” said team manager Scott Guyton.

“We have a well-rounded team with individuals that can do well over all the terrains Wairarapa has to offer.”

“We also have the National Criterium champion Aaron Gate in the team, and we are looking forward to seeing him race in the national jersey in our Capital City on the last stage.”

Campbell Stewart, Joel Yates, and Kiaan Watts complete the powerful Black Spoke line-up.

With covid-19 travel restrictions in place, only two international riders – Mark Stewart from Scotland and American Adrian Hegyvary – will contest the tour.

However, Guyton predicted close competition from the field featuring most of New Zealand’s leading riders.

“While we don’t have an international field, the domestic teams are still very strong, and we don’t underestimate them.”

“The NZ Cycle Classic is still a UCI race and very important for the team being our first race of the season and one of the first on the UCI calendar with points up for grabs.”

Black Spoke are likely to be pushed by the New Zealand National team consisting of Finn Fisher-Black, Ollie Jones, Laurence Pithie, Reuben Thompson, Corbin Strong, and Regan Gough.

Australian-based St George Continental will compete with a team of Kiwi riders, including 2014 NZ Cycle Classic winner Michael Vink, Classic stage winner Dylan Kennett, James Harvey, Matt Zenovich, Hamish Keast, and Baily O’Donnell.

St George spokesman Brett Dutton said with limited race opportunities last year and through into 2021, it means the team need to take any opportunity it can.

“We go into every race with the aim of doing our best and taking part in the race, not just following. By this I mean to be seen in breakaways and to make the race.”

“We aim to be aggressive from the drop of the flag on day one. We have some new riders from New Zealand, and I am sure they will take this opportunity to show us what they are capable of.”

Kiwi cycling great Greg Henderson manages the Cycle NZ team. PHOTO/GRAHAM WATSON

The tour will also have Kiwi cycling great Greg Henderson in a managerial role with the Cycling New Zealand team.

A four-time Commonwealth Games medallist on the track, including gold in the 2002 points race, Henderson also won the World Scratch Race title in 2004, and raced in the Tour de France four times, gaining a reputation as one of cycling’s best lead-out riders.

In 2020 Henderson was the performance manager for Israel Start-up Nation and worked with the team at the highest level during the Tour de France, and Giro D’Italia.

Henderson said he wanted to give back to cycling in New Zealand and hoped that the cyclists could learn something from him.

“I bring to the team sprint and race tactics as well as a thorough overview of what it takes to get to the start line,” he said.

“There’s a lot more to being a professional bike rider than riding your bike fast.”

Meanwhile, Wairarapa’s sole competitor in the tour, Mark Langlands, is feeling strong and confident of a good showing with his Coupland’s Bakeries-Booth’s Transport team.

“This year we’re aiming to chase a series of stage wins and I’m particularly looking forward to stage three in Martinborough in front of my second home [first home is Cambridge] as well as stage two up and around Alfredton.”

Stages

Stage Two – Thursday 10.10am – 158.1km

Start on Te Ore Ore Rd at Henley Lake, to Whangaehu Valley Rd and Alfredton, and return, finishing on Manuka St, at the Masterton Golf Club.

Stage Three – Friday 10.10am – 126.3km

Start on Johnstone St at Hullena Park, to Martinborough via the Gladstone circuit, followed by eight laps of a Martinborough circuit.

Stage Four – Saturday 10.10am – 126.9km

The Queen Stage – Start on Johnstone St at Hullena Park.

Two laps of the Masterton-Te Wharau Hill-Westmere Road – Masterton loop, followed by finish at the top of the famed Admiral Hill.

Stage Five – Sunday 1.30pm

The final stage of the tour is the Wellington City Criterium – one hour plus three laps of the Lambton Quay circuit.

Last 10 winners

[New Zealand unless stated]

2011 George Bennett

2012 Jay McCarthy [Australia]

2013 Nathan Earle [Australia]

2014 Michael Vink

2015 Taylor Gunman

2016 Ben O’Connor [Australia]

2017 Joseph Cooper

2018 Hayden McCormick

2019 Aaron Gate

2020 Rylee Field [Australia]

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