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New challenges in cycle classic

Finn Fisher-Black celebrates winning the gruelling Queen Stage at the top of the Admiral Hill in the 2021 tour. PHOTO/FILE


The return of the demanding Admiral Hill climb at the end of the longest and toughest stage in tour history, and a new stage on the Miramar Peninsula are highlights of the 2023 New Zealand Cycle Classic to be raced in January.

Aaron Gate, the winner of four gold medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and 2019 champion, celebrates winning stage two of the 2020 NZ Cycle Classic. PHOTOS/DAVE LINTOTT

Race director Jorge Sandoval has unveiled details of the five-stage elite men’s road cycling tour, the only Union Cycliste Internationale [UCI]-sanctioned stage race to be held in New Zealand, which will be raced over five days from Wednesday, January 11 to Sunday, January 15.

The tour is also likely to receive a big boost with the lifting of covid-19 restrictions, meaning the top Kiwi riders, including Birmingham Commonwealth Games medallists and the Black Spoke team [New Zealand’s only professional UCI team] as well as many international riders, are likely to line up over the five days.

As in previous years, the NZ Cycle Classic will feature three exciting days of racing around the townships of Masterton, Carterton and Martinborough., as well as on roads that pass through rolling rural countryside and vineyards.

The return of the Admiral Hill finish, after being left out of the 2022 tour, adds a challenging finish to the Cycle Classic’s ‘Queen Stage’, while the other significant change is to stage four, which will see the riders tackle a new course around the Miramar Peninsula in Wellington.

The final stage is in the centre of the capital city with a 12-lap criterion on Lambton Quay.

The NZ Cycle Classic begins with a fast 122km stage from Masterton through the Whangaehu Valley to Alfredton before returning to Masterton and a 2km uphill climb to the finish line outside the Masterton Golf Club, a popular vantage point for spectators.

“During this year’s race riders told me how much they enjoyed this as spectators lined the streets and cheered them on as they zoomed past their front doors towards the finish line,” Sandoval said on Monday.

Stage two will have riders head south from Masterton to Martinborough, where they will complete eight laps of a 7.1km circuit through the surrounding wine country.

Friday’s 155km ‘Queen Stage’ with its famous steep uphill finish on Admiral Hill in Gladstone, could again determine the tour winner, especially with a new twist added by Sandoval to make the stage even more challenging.

2022 NZ Cycle Classic winner Mark Stewart of Black Spoke could be back to defend his title.

“I’ve added King of the Mountain sections at the top of Te Wharau Hill, one of the steepest climbs in Wairarapa, before the final slog up Admiral. Riders will climb a total of 2784 metres of altitude,” he said.

“It will be the longest and toughest in the NZ Cycle Classic’s 36-year history.”

The stage begins in Masterton and heads towards Gladstone before turning left up the 7km Te Wharau Hill to complete two laps of a 43km circuit comprising Te Wharau, Wainuioru and Limeworks hills.

After the second lap, the riders will turn left on to Lees Pakaraka Road to complete the circuit in the opposite direction, climbing once again over Limeworks and the steep side of Te Wharau and then on to the gruelling 14km climb to the finish at the top of the Admiral Hill.

Sandoval said each circuit will require concentration both uphill and downhill with riders expected to reach speeds up to 100kmh down the steep side of Te Wharau.

The fourth stage is a 126km circuit around the Miramar Peninsula in Wellington where riders will complete 12 laps of the circuit with a total of 130km.

Another new addition to the 2023 event is the first-ever Pedal Project Wellington Gran Fondo where riders of all abilities will be given the opportunity to ride the same challenging circuit around the Miramar Peninsula.

“Having the NZ Cycle Classic and this community event held after each other means that local riders will have the chance to test their legs on their own bikes and then stay and watch some of the world’s best riders in action.”

Sandoval said he has been working closely with Wellington City Council to firm up the course route and is confident it will also attract a lot of spectators.

Registrations for the Gran Fondo will open in the next week.

The teams for the NZ Cycle Classic will be announced over the coming weeks.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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