English cyclist Ian Bibby leading the field up Admiral Hill during the 2018 New Zealand Cycle Classic. PHOTO/DAVE LINTOTT
The peloton for next year’s New Zealand Cycle Classic will face a tortuous fourth stage with race organiser Jorge Sandoval deciding to put a “a new twist on an old favourite” on its return to Wairarapa.
Sandoval has stretched the stage out to 178km, making it the longest in the tour’s 33-year history and thrown in a few more climbs before the stage finish on top of Admiral Hill.
The five stages of the race were made public on Tuesday with Sandoval saying that changes to the fourth stage, known as the ‘Queen Stage’ will test all riders to their maximum.
“Stage four of the New Zealand Cycle Classic is renowned for its hills and testing riders with a steep hilltop finish.
“In 2020, I’m putting a new twist on an old favourite by making it even more challenging adding extra hill climbs before the famous Admiral Hill finish which sees riders climb a total of 2784 metres.
“Admiral Hill is feared by some riders and revered by others, but in some past tours the rider who wins this stage has gone on to win the overall tour.”
The stage will have riders start in Masterton and head towards Gladstone before turning left up the 7km Te Wharau Hill to complete three laps of a 43km circuit comprising Te Wharau, Wainuioru, and the Limeworks’ hills.
Sandoval said each of these circuits will require concentration both uphill and downhill with riders expected to reach speeds up to 100kmh racing down the steep side of Te Wharau.
The five-stage elite international men’s road race is the only Union Cycliste Internationale-sanctioned stage race to be held in New Zealand next year from January 15-19 entirely in Wairarapa.
The race begins with a 122km stage taking riders north of Masterton towards Eketahuna and back before a small hill climb has them finish outside Masterton Golf Club in Lansdowne, a new finish area for the tour.
“This is a relatively short, fast stage that could take place in very hot conditions. It will be crucial to any rider who is trying to take the tour victory to be in the best position possible before embarking on the 2km uphill finish.”
On day two, the riders will make a return loop from Masterton to Gladstone, while stage three will be held around Martinborough the next day.
The tour ends with riders completing 12 laps of a 10km circuit around a residential area near Mitre 10 Mega on the west side of Masterton.
Sandoval will announce the teams that will take part in the Cycle Classic next month and has hinted there will be several international teams as well as a quality field of New Zealand riders.
He is hopeful defending champion Aaron Gate will front with his Evo Pro Racing team.
Being held simultaneously with the NZ Cycle Classic will be a series of community events that highlight Wairarapa’s bike-friendly roads, tracks and trails; the people who ride on them and the bikes they ride with.
“Having the New Zealand Cycle Classic and these community events held simultaneously will give the community a chance to see some of the world’s best riders in action and provide them with opportunities to get out on their own bikes and discover Wairarapa one road at a time,” Sandoval said.
This year’s race was run in Waikato but Sandoval decided to bring it home because Wairarapa’s terrain was suitably more challenging.