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Cycle Classic comes home

Race organiser Jorge Sandoval before the start of stage five of the 2018 NZ Cycle Classic in Wairarapa. PHOTO/FILE

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The New Zealand Cycling Classic is coming back to Wairarapa after a short stint up north, and it’s not only cycling enthusiasts who are happy about it.

Destination Wairarapa estimates the event is worth “1000 guest nights”, which is only a portion of the economic impact it will have on the region when it returns in 2020.

General manager David Hancock said, the accommodation was a “big bit of business for Wairarapa”.

“The teams are also very social media and online savvy and they have corporate sponsors to satisfy, so we get a lot of coverage from that.

“It’s a perfect example of what Tourism New Zealand is trying to do by spreading events throughout the country.”

The tour is recognised as the premier international road cycling event in New Zealand and is the only Union Cycliste Internationale 2.2 event held in Oceania.

Race director Jorge Sandoval said the nature of the five-day event was better suited to the terrain and variety of challenging road routes found throughout Wairarapa, than it was to Waikato where he took it in January
this year.

“I’m really looking forward to next year’s race in Wairarapa because, to be honest, we should have never moved it away from there,” Sandoval said.

“I had a go in the Waikato but it didn’t take me long to realise the region there was not suitable for a five-day stage race.”

Sandoval is promising a demanding race next year, with plenty of hill climbing, which was a key component that was missing this year.

The notorious Admiral Hill, between Gladstone and Masterton, was sure to be in his plans.

“At the end of the day, the races are for the riders, and they want a hard, hilly race.

In Waikato we couldn’t find a hill for the King of the Mountain.

“That was embarrassing and the race became very predictable.

Admiral Hill will be at the end of one very challenging stage we’re planning.”

This year, 15 international teams competed including, for the first time ever, two teams from Japan. Over the years, riders have come from Canada, Taiwan, Wales, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Spain, USA, Mongolia, Uruguay and England to compete against the best riders from New Zealand.

Sandoval indicated that 14 teams have committed for next year. One central location for accommodation and race management made Wairarapa the ideal venue for the teams.

“In the past, riders and their team managers have enjoyed racing in Wairarapa, commenting on the quality of the stages and the warm hospitality. They’ve also enjoyed being based at the one location, the Copthorne Hotel and Resort Solway Park, for the duration of their stay allowing the riders to focus solely on the racing.”

Sandoval has been talking with Trust House, Wairarapa’s three councils, and potential sponsors to seek their support in bringing the event home next year.

He sees multiple benefits for the region, including increased media exposure, community engagement, and increased visitors.

“This event will bring riders of the highest calibre here for over a week and their entourage of bike mechanics, health professionals, supporters and media.

“The race is televised and watched around the world and with racing around the whole region from Martinborough, around Lake Wairarapa, and through the townships, it’s a great way to showcase Wairarapa.”

Local participation will also be a big focus with the community and fun events planned around the event under the Huri Huri Bike Wairarapa umbrella.

Huri Huri project manager Catherine Rossiter-Stead said: “What Wairarapa needs to do as a whole community is get behind this event, whether it’s putting on a special promotion as a retailer or accommodation provider, sponsoring or funding activity, or just simply getting roadside and cheering on the riders.

“We don’t want to waste a great opportunity an event like this can present.”

The Cycle Classic is widely regarded as a stepping stone for riders. It enables riders to gain valuable UCI points and catch the eye of professional teams looking for the “next big thing”.

It also provides New Zealand riders with a chance to race competitively over five days with elite international riders.

Next year’s Cycle Classic will mark its 33rd anniversary. It will run from January 15-19.

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