Some of New Zealand’s most promising young road riders will wear the national colours in UCI events on both sides of the Tasman over the coming weeks.
Cycling New Zealand has announced male and female teams to compete in the Gravel and Tar, a UCI 1.2 category one-day event in the Manawatu on Saturday 25 January, with a women’s team to compete in the UCI 2.1 category two-stage race, the Lexus of Blackburn Women in Australia on 5-6 February.
The New Zealand women’s team is led by Nelson teenager Niamh Fisher-Black, who has a fulltime contract with Swiss-based UCI women’s team Bigla-Katusha after a successful stint late in 2019 including second in the young rider category in the Giro delle Marche in Rosa. She was ninth overall in the race last year.
She is joined by national mountain bike champion, Samara Sheppard who was in the final three chasing a pro road cycling spot in the Zwift Academy challenge, Lee Boon from Taranaki and Cecilia Crooks from Dunedin.
The women’s race, which has attracted seven teams, is over 130km from Feilding to Palmerston North, including five gravel sections.
The men’s team is an exciting mix of young talent led by Waikato’s Drew Christensen and Auckland’s Connor Brown, who will pair up in the exciting NTT Pro Cycling, in the development programme of their World Tour team, that were known as Dimension Data.
Christensen earned his place after winning the global Zwift Academy challenge.
The team also includes Nelson’s Finn Fisher-Black, the junior individual pursuit world record holder, who has earned a place in another World Tour development team, in the new academy established by Dutch-based Jumbo-Visma.
Also selected are Manawatu’s Joel Yates, who is part of the Australian-based St George Continental team, and Tauranga’s Andrew Pointon.
The men’s race, which has 12 teams competing, is also from Feilding to Palmerston North over 142kms with six gravel seconds and 4kms of climbing.
Meanwhile a Cycling New Zealand team will venture across the Tasman to compete in the two-stage Lexus of Blackburn Herald Sun Tour on 5 and 6 February.
There will be a classy team headed by Otago’s Ella Harris, who has stormed her way onto World Tour team Canyon-SRAM after winning the Zwift global final last year. She has enjoyed an excellent first year including fourth overall in the Colorado Classic and eighth in the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas.
Joining her is Jenna Merrick from Auckland, who has earned a place in UCI World Tour team, Doltcini-Van Eyck, finishing top-10 in the young rider category at the Santos Tour Down Under.
Supporting them is Christchurch’s Hannah Bartram, who was runner-up junior in the New Zealand road race and time trial, who gained experience in Europe last year; Whangarei’s Jorja Swain, who has raced with success in China, and Sheppard who is based in Australia.
The race in Victoria comprises a 94km first day through the Goulburn Valley to Shepparton and 75km second dal with a mountain top finish on the famed Falls Creek ski resort.
Otago’s Katri Lake will be the Director Sportif for both women’s events with Mike Young directing the men’s team in the Gravel and Tar.