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New face to Classic torture

Sandoval: Admiral Hill climb switched to Te Wharau

The New Zealand national team start the team time trial in the 2021 NZ Cycle Classic. PHOTOS/FILE

CYCLING

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

The Black Spoke PRO team are likely starters in the 2022 NZ Cycle Classic.

A gruelling hilltop finish and a new community event are highlights of the January’s New Zealand Cycle Classic in Wairarapa.

The Admiral Hill has been a dominant feature of the five-day tour since the Classic has been raced in the region, but organiser and race director Jorge Sandoval said it is time to add a twist and make the event more challenging.

“Nine out of 10 times, whoever wins Admiral Hill wins the cycle tour, so I decided to make a change because I believe that racing to the top of Te Wharau Hill from the opposite [eastern] side will provide more opportunities for the real hill climbers to win the race,” said Sandoval.

“I’ve added extra hill climbs before a new hilltop finish on Te Wharau Hill, one of the steepest climbs in Wairarapa, and riders will climb a total of 2784m.

“Admiral Hill is long, but you go up, and then you go down, and then you go flat, and then you go up, but Te Wharau is a flat out really steep 2km hill climb, and I’ve seen in the past when we race up there that some riders lose eight or nine minutes, so it’s going to be the key stage.”

Known as the ‘Queen Stage”, the fourth stage will have riders leave from Masterton and head towards Gladstone before completing two laps of a 43km circuit, including the western side of the 7km Te Wharau Hill, Te Wharau, Wainuioru and lime works hills.

After the second lap, riders will turn left on to Lees Pakaraka Rd to complete the circuit the opposite way climbing once again lime works and the steep side of Te Wharau to the finish at the summit.

Cycle Classic organiser Jorge Sandoval.

Sandoval said each of the circuits would require concentration both uphill and downhill, with riders expected to reach speeds up to 100kmh. The 136km stage will be the longest and toughest in the Classic’s 35-year history.

Another innovation is the Premier Beehive Gran Fondo, which will allow casual cyclists ride the same course as the Classic cyclists.

Sandoval said the Gran Fondo would start about 8am, and riders can choose to do one lap or two laps of the course and be at the top of the hill for when the race finishes.

Registrations for the Gran Fondo open on Friday, and Sandoval said he will monitor these numbers closely, as the field may have to be capped to 300 riders if New Zealand remains at covid-19 alert level 2.

The NZ Cycle Classic will be held a week earlier than usual to avoid a clash with a major event in Australia.

“Because we’re the only UCI 2.2 race in Oceania, we’re dictated by the UCI calendar and the Australians have a national championship on our old date and we can’t compete because if the borders are open, none of the Australians will come here, so we had to move it a week earlier.

“I hope the bubble with Australia will be open because we have a lot of Australian teams wanting to come to the race, and they would come if they don’t have to go through quarantine, but if not, we will race the race as we did this year with New Zealand riders.”

Sandoval said that uncertainty around covid-19 alert levels made planning for the event difficult, with rider numbers being capped at 80, so the tour can go ahead at level 1 or 2.

“It’s hard but at the end of the day we manage to get a good race every year, and I’ve got a lot of people who help me with this, and in the end, we do a good job.”

NZ Cycle Classic winner Corbin Strong from the NZ national team.

The Classic begins on January 5 with a team time trial held on a 10km circuit beginning and finishing at Mitre 10 Mega Masterton. The tour continues the next day with riders racing from Masterton to Alfredton in a 121km stage finishing outside the Masterton Golf Club in Lansdowne.

Stage three will have riders head south from Masterton to the wine village of Martinborough.

Riders will complete the 136km Queen stage with the new hilltop finish on January 8. The fifth and final stage is a circuit around central Wellington City streets.

Sandoval has hinted that several Kiwi riders who would traditionally be racing offshore have expressed an interest in competing while riders from Black Spoke PRO Cycling, New Zealand’s only Union Cycliste Internationale professional team, are keen to return after making their debut at the 2020 event.

 

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