After two years of covid-19 impacted races, the welcome mat is being laid out for the return of international teams to next month’s Trust House New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Race director Jorge Sandoval confirmed two teams, made up of experienced riders from France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, and Thailand, as the first international teams to enter the only Union Cycliste Internationale [UCI] sanctioned stage race to be held in New Zealand in 2023.
Roojai Online Insurance, a UCI team registered in Thailand, and EuroCyclingTrips, a UCI continental team registered in Guam, will make their debuts in the five-day race to be staged in Wairarapa and Wellington.
Sandoval said the lifting of covid-19 restrictions, which prevented international teams from competing in 2021 and 2022, has resulted in a spike in inquiries from overseas teams wanting to contest the NZ Cycle Classic.
“The interest from international teams wanting to race in January has been exceptional, and at this stage, we’ve 11 nationalities looking to be represented in the peloton,” Sandoval said.
“It’s super exciting for New Zealand, for Wellington and Wairarapa, to lay out the welcome mat to these experienced riders. I’ve no doubt their inclusion will make for such an exciting race.”
EuroCyclingTrips, previously called Equipe CMI, has been in existence for 12 years and will be led by Great Britain’s Simeon Green, who is excited about coming to New Zealand for some early-season racing.
“The New Zealand Cycle Classic is a race you tend to hear a bit about in Europe because it is so early, so I’ve followed it over the years,” Green said.
“I’ve never started a cycling season this early before, but the opportunity to go all the way around the other side of the earth and race in a country you hear so many amazing things about is super motivating.”
Green will be joined by French riders Guillaume Soula and Thomas Peyroton, Belgium rider Niels Verdijck, Edward Oingerang from Guam, and Kiwi Boris Clark.
Team manager Lara Ferrin said selecting a team has been tough because every rider on the team roster expressed an interest in racing here.
“We must weigh up several parameters ranging from costs with increasing flight prices, balancing a rider’s own expectations with the cycling season being so long and the New Zealand races being so early,” Ferrin said.
“Finding a balance of riders that enables us to send the ideal mix of experienced, performing, and development riders is the key.”
The Roojai Online Insurance Team is also made up of top international riders.
German Lucas Carstensen is a top sprinter and winner of many races in Europe and the Asian circuit while hill climber Adne Van Engelen from the Netherlands and Ariya Phounsavath from Laos are others to watch.
Team manager Peter Pouly said they had heard the Classic was a tough race with crosswinds and some hard stages, but the excitement of racing down under was high.
“Our team’s purpose is to expose our young Thai riders to foreign riders and have a