A German and a Japanese team are the latest international teams to confirm their entries for next month’s Trust House New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Germany’s Wheelsports-Metropol Racing will make their Kiwi debut in the UCI 2.2 classic being staged in Wairarapa and Wellington, while Japan’s KINAN Racing team returns after a two-year absence.
Experienced German sprinter Daniel Bichlmann, winner of the 2021 Tour de Faso, will head
up the Wheelsports team.
Race director Jorge Sandoval believes Bichlmann could be one of the most experienced riders in the peloton, with his 10-year pro career having taken him to various races around the globe, but this will be his first time racing in New Zealand.
Supporting Bichlmann are four other German riders, Dominik Merseburg, Fischer Robin, Philipp Küllmer, Johannes Kaufmann and kiwi Ryan Wills.
Wheelsports team manager Bastian Jackel said the team was looking forward to the trip down under and some tough early-season racing.
“We’ve never raced that far away, and all riders are super motivated,” Jackel said.
“This will definitely be the highlight of the year for everyone. We are excited to see how the race will be run but expect a high level. Of course, even though there are no races here at the moment [winter in Europe], we hope that we can cope well with the change of weather.
“We’re also hoping for some good results. New Zealand is currently the number one topic of conversation in the team.”
KINAN is one of the top-ranked Asian UCI teams and will feature accomplished French rider Thomas Lebas, a noted hill climber, and winner of Tour de Hokkaido, Tour de Flores, and the international Tour of Setif in Algeria.
Lebas will be joined by three Japanese riders and two experienced Australian tour riders, including former Pro tour rider Drew Morey.
Sandoval said for the team to start their racing year in New Zealand is a huge deal.
“KINAN is an extremely competitive team who has achieved great results over the years with many of their riders having participated in the Tours of Asia, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan,” he said.
It will be the third time KINAN have raced in the Classic and team spokesperson Tetsuya Ishida said the riders are preparing for the best performance.”
“We can aim for a more strategic and better result in 2023,” Ishida said.
“We expect to be able to race in a good environment like last time. It also serves as a good training for the start of the season.”
The NZ Cycle Classic runs from January 11-15, with the first three stages held in Wairarapa, and the final two in Wellington.
In other cycling news, Dave Drummond was the fastest in the Athletics and Cycling Masterton WizWireles Matahiwi individual time trial on Tuesday night.
Drummond completed the undulating out-and-back course in a time of 26 minutes 22 seconds. Caleb Roberts was 14 seconds slower in second place, with Derek Roberts third another five seconds off the pace.
Judy Brown won the short course in 36min 41sec from Karen Blade and David Howden.
The next race on Tuesday is a fun night at the Masterton Motorplex drag strip, with sport prizes and barbecue.