New Zealand’s premier cycle tour has gone up a cog with an American national track team to race in next month’s five-day tour as part of their buildup for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The USA Cycling’s Men’s Track Endurance team will use the Mitre 10 MEGA Masterton NZ Cycle Classic as their initial step in preparation for the first Track Nations Cup being held in Adelaide, Australia, in February, culminating in their return to the States to complete their buildup for Paris.
Coach Jono Hailstone, being a New Zealander, knows what to expect in the summer conditions and believes “New Zealand is the ideal location” to prepare away from the cold North American winter.
“The NZ Cycle Classic is a well-organised event, with a reputation for a high standard of racing, attracting strong up-and-coming riders, with previous winners going on to have successful careers in the world tour,” Hailstone said.
“It will provide a great development opportunity for our riders to be exposed to the unique style of southern hemisphere racing and continue to develop their skillset and versatility as bike racers.”
The Americans are eyeing up Olympic events ranging from the 4km team pursuit to the four-event omnium [10km scratch race, 10 km tempo race, elimination race, 25km points race] and the 50km Madison.
Hailstone, who has previously coached the NZ Para-Cycling team and was assistant coach for the NZ Women’s Track endurance programme, said racing in the NZ Cycle Classic will help prepare them well.
“All of these [aforementioned] events have a large aerobic component. A significant proportion of our training is done on the road, and many of the world’s best track cyclists are also top world tour professionals on the road,” he said.
“There have been several examples in recent years of teams performing exceptionally well on the track off the back of completing road stage races.”
The USA men’s team to race in Wairarapa and Wellington is led by Gavin Hoover, who was in the USA Team Pursuit squad that finished fourth at the Cambridge round of the World Cup in January 2019 before going on to finish eighth in the omnium at the Tokyo Olympics. He will be supported by Grant Koontz, Anders Johnson, David Domonoske, Brendan Rhim, and one more rider to be announced.
Although Americans have raced in the tour before, race director Jorge Sandoval said it is the first time the track endurance team has trekked south.
“It’s hugely significant having the USA men’s team here, and what a coup for New Zealand to have them train here as they build up for their Olympic campaign,” Sandoval said.
“I’ve no doubt they will bring an extra flair to the tour that we haven’t really seen before, and I encourage spectators to come and support them.”
The NZ Cycle Classic will be held from January 10–14, with the first four days in Wairarapa before concluding in Wellington with an exciting circuit race.
The event is expected to attract a field of 120 international and national riders.