Twizel to Timaru

Date(s) - 16/09/2017

Marc Ryan, former track world champion, is a three-time winner of Twizel-Timaru, photo provided

It is the oldest race in New Zealand and its format enables any rider of any ability to have the chance of winning.  Weekend warriors have the chance of defeating Olympic medallists in Twizel to Timaru, first run in 1899.

The Twizel to Timaru Road Race was initially run as Christchurch – Timaru and in the nearly 120 years has changed formats a couple of times up to this point, being run over the 151km course that takes the riders around the beautiful South Island roads that lead to Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and to views of Mount Cook.  The race finishes with a gentle downhill slope towards Timaru.

As a reward for victory in Twizel to Timaru, the winner is presented with the Rudge-Whitworth Cup, and as Darren Cuthbertson – president of Cycling Timaru – explained, it is one of the richest trophies in New Zealand sporting history.  “It’s fantastic for Cycling Timaru to have this as the pinnacle of our calendar, especially for the riders who have been around the race scene for a bit,” Cuthbertson explained.  “The Rudge-Whitworth Cup is one of the oldest trophies in NZ sport and is definitely an aim for most to get their name added to the history that goes with the race.”

Names in recent times to be added to the trophy have included local lad Marc Ryan.  A team pursuit world champion in 2015, Ryan has won the race three times, once in 2011 and back-to-back in 2014-2015.  But don’t think for a minute that this is a race that only a select few can claim as their own.  Being a handicapped race – where riders are set off in groups according to ability, with slowest first and fastest last – creates a very interesting and exciting race that could see anything happen.  

In 2013 Lauren Ellis made history as the first woman to win the Rudge Whitworth Cup, after she took line honours in a field that included the likes of Reon Park and Hamish Schreurs.  Although it was Reon Park who set the fastest time that day out of the ‘scratch bunch’ Ellis was able to stay at the front of the race and claim the famous trophy.  She would go on to represent New Zealand at the Rio Olympic Games, while Schreurs would twice win the U23 national road championship and be selected for the world road championships.

To win Twizel-Timaru demands a good combination of two specific attributes.  “The course suits a strong rider with good endurance. It’s a tough start from Twizel to Tekapo, around 60km of gradual grinding terrain and the odd hill – spectacular scenery though, if you have time to look…” said Cuthbertson.  “From Tekapo it’s theoretically down hill to the finish, although that’s where the legs play games with you if your fitness is underdone.”

It’s not just the course that riders must take into account but also conditions.  “The harder the conditions, the better it is for the super fit elites!” Cuthbertson shared.  “The handicap format gives riders of virtually every ability a chance to take line honours. The fast boys don’t win if they don’t catch the out-markers.  Ideally, you want everyone crossing the line at the same time, that’s the aim of the handicapper.  Realistically, the wind and weather play a huge part.”

For more information or to enter the Twizel-Timaru Road Race check out the Cycling Timaru website.