A tough – and vastly different – challenge awaits the riders who will tackle the 2020 New Zealand Cycle Classic.  Returning to the Wairarapa, the race is set to favour riders who are prepared to fight for honours every day over gritty and rugged courses.

In 2019 Aaron Gate did what no rider in the New Zealand Cycle Classic had done for the past five years.  Not since Michael Vink in 2014 had a rider led the New Zealand Cycle Classic from start to finish.  Gate’s defence of the jersey that began after a brilliant breakaway display in day 1, showcased the excellent work of himself and the EvoPro Racing team over the course of the week.  

This time around there is the definite expectation of a race that will be far from predictable over a course that will throw everything at the field.  Race director Jorge Sandoval told us more.  “Aaron Gate did well in giving his new EvoPro Racing team their first win of the season in 2019. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2020 but I think it will be challenging for the simple reason that there will be hill climbs every day,” Sandoval said.  “Stage four will see riders climb to a total of 2875 meters with a mountain finish. This will definitely suit the skills of a good hill climber but notably it will come after other hilly stages.”

Over the years the New Zealand Cycle Classic has evolved in terms of perception towards it from the riders.  With races like the Cycle Classic and Gravel and Tar rising in prominence in New Zealand these races have become target events in and of themselves.  “In the past riders came to this race and used the tour as “training” for later races, but now any rider taking part in the event needs to do some serious training before the tour because of the quality of the field,” Jorge told us. 

“I’ve previously said that this race has the reputation for unearthing new talent and I stand by that. Many riders learn a lot during the tour, about their role within the team, the hard slog of racing for five days straight in – at times – windy or hot conditions. It’s a very good for the development of all riders.”

Aaro Gate did what no one since Michael Vink had been able to do this year, lead from start to finish. Photo: Dave Lintott / lintottphoto.co.nz

In a field that’s set to welcome 15 teams to the Wairarapa, Sandoval hopes to see a good balance of local, national and international riders in the 33rd edition of the race.  Ten of the fifteen teams who will be at the New Zealand Cycle Classic have already accepted their invites for the 2020 race, so time is running out for riders to get their applications in through their teams or as individuals riding for composite outfits.

 “I’ve worked hard for the last 32 years to grow the reputation of the New Zealand Cycle Classic and offer the national and international riders who attend, the best possible five-day race they can have whilst in our country.  It’s now up to New Zealand riders to decide if they want to take the opportunity to be in Oceania’s only UCI 2.2 stage race, the race is here for local riders to be in so I hope they enter and get the chance to test themselves against international riders.”

As attention begins to turn to what kind of course Sandoval and the organising team are crafting for next year’s race, whispers of Admiral Hill once again hone into the mind’s eye.  The legendary climb that has a rich history in the Cycle Classic will form part of the 2019 Queen stage, and while the climb is familiar and typical race-deciding there will be plenty of damage done in the build up to the final climb.  

“Stage four with a finish at the top of Admiral Hill will be the “Queen stage” once again.  In the past riders who win this stage usually go to win the overall title, I think next year this will be the case once again where the race could be win or lost,” Sandoval explained.

“However it’s important to note that this is a new route for the tour that includes a total of 2875 meters of climbing.  Firstly riders will complete three laps of a 42 km circuit that incorporates the Te Wharau and Limeworks hills in Masterton before heading to the finish at the top of Admiral.  It will be a huge day for the riders and spectators.”

For more information about the New Zealand Cycle Classic or to find out how you can enter click here.

Photo: Dave Lintott / lintottphoto.co.nz


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