Whanganui hard man, Glenn Haden, headlines the Bike Box cycling team for this year’s Gravel and Tar Classic. The international cycle event with UCI status is being held in Manawatu on Saturday, 27 January.

Firefighter Haden will be looking to climb the ladder after his third placing in last year’s race, especially coming off a successful season which saw him turn heads with an impressive performance at the Tour of New Caledonia in October.

Joining him in the Bike Box team is journeyman, Brendon Sharratt, also from Whanganui.

Sharratt would have to be one of the dark horse NZ riders for the UCI event, being able to mix his well-known road skills with his proven road ability. 

His skills will come in handy as the race is known for its off-road toughness, with climbs and descents on roughly 40km of gravel testing the fiercest of competitors. As the reigning NZ Cyclocross champion, Sharratt has just returned from a European campaign where he has been racing at the top level in the off-road cycling discipline.

Many teams are competing to gain valuable UCI points, following the Gravel and Tar Classic’s accreditation with UCI status for the first time in its history. Build up to the Commonwealth Games has also been an attraction for riders.

Haden and Sharratt will be supported by 2016 NZ Junior road representative Liam Cappell, as well as time trial specialists Steve Nichols and Ben Earnshaw.

For the first time, the Gravel and Tar Classic has gained UCI 1.2 status from the international cycling body and thus has attracted riders from as far away as the UK entered in either continental, regional, registered trade or national teams. 

Supporting the UCI race are two rides open to the public; the 70km Gran Fondo and the 35km River Path Challenge, both of which take in part of the race course.

While the Classic is a test of skill and determination for the elite riders, organiser Stephen Stannard said the Gran Fondo is challenging in its own right.

“The Gran Fondo is for junior, masters and sportive riders looking for that extra kick. It includes a 2km Valley Road climb as well as two long gravel sectors, allowing riders to experience part of the course taken by UCI riders.”

“We’d love to see as many Whanganui riders enter and be part of the atmosphere of international riding,” he said. Entry forms can be found at www.gravelandtar.com.

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