Cycling New Zealand have announced a young, but strong women’s team for the inaugural UCI 1.2 Gravel and Tar La Femme on Saturday, 19 January.  Former Palmerston North rider, Deborah Paine headlines the team fresh from her second place at the National Elite Road Cycling Championships in Napier last weekend.  


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“Wearing the silver fern is always a privilege and I am excited to experience the dynamics of what should be a very exciting race,” Paine said.

The 21-year-old, who has a Nutrition and Exercise Science degree, was quick to praise race director Steve Stannard.

“Big thanks to Steve for developing a unique UCI race in NZ. [It is] such a fantastic opportunity.

“It will be a special race for me, back in [Palmerston North] where I spent three years studying, and [the race] organised by one of my lecturers,” she said.

Other team members are Ella Harris, Kate Smith, Ione Johnson and Kate Wightman.

Ella Harris rides for Canyon-SRAM in 2019, photo Marion Wright/

Harris was recently awarded a 2019 UCI World Tour team contract with Canyon//SRAM Racing after winning the worldwide Zwift Academy competition.  Team-mate Johnson, the first woman home in the 2018 Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, also made the Academy’s top three.

Cycling New Zealand’s Graeme Hunn said it was important to have the opportunity of a UCI women’s race in New Zealand and to grow women’s cycling through it.

“As a development opportunity, having a UCI women’s race on our soil is important.

“These events provide the opportunities for young riders to develop toward their long-term goals”, he said.

Despite fielding a young team, Hunn said they would hold their own in the race.

“We’ve chosen a young NZ team to give them some experience at this level and we’re confident this team will give a good account of themselves in a strong field.”

Gravel and Tar La Femme starts at the Manchester Square’s Clock Tower in Feilding at 9.30am.


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