Wairarapa’s hosting of the New Zealand Cycle Classic and Huri Huri: Bike Festival received a great endorsement and high praise from the Swiss based Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and from several riders who took part.
Zac Prendergast was the UCI’s international commissaire appointed to officiate the 30th anniversary of the Cycle Classic held across the entire Wairarapa region last week. The five day event attracted 95 riders from nine countries and concluded on Thursday afternoon in Masterton with New Zealand rider Joseph Cooper, racing for IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness, being crowned 2017 champion.
Mr Prendergast said he was impressed with the event’s organisation, the quality of the racing and the environment in which it was held. “Overall it’s been very successful. It’s been done with considerable collaboration between the New Zealand Police, the marshals, the organiser and officials. The environment that has been created is positive with people looking for solutions,” he said.
“The racing was very good every day. On the fourth day if you wanted to know anything about bike racing you would have wanted to see that stage, because it was a classic stage with all the elements of weather, attacking teams and positive racing.”
The New Zealand Cycle Classic was created 30 years ago by Jorge Sandoval and originally staged in Wellington. For a time it was jointly held between the Wairarapa and Wellington before being moved to Manawatu. It returned to the Wairarapa in 2016 and has developed a reputation for unearthing new talent. It is also the only UCI sanctioned race to be held in New Zealand in 2017.
Mr Prendergast, who raced for a combined team in the event in 1998, said having the Tour staged in the Wairarapa was good for a number of reasons: including having all teams based at a single hotel for the duration of the event.
“Wairarapa is a great playground. I’ve raced in over 14 or 15 different countries and the roads here are perfect. They are quiet, they allow us to race competitively, they allow for the safety of the riders and the police protection we receive is wonderful. The weather typically is great,” he said.
“The fact that the riders can be based here for the whole time is very good. It allows the support members of the team, like the mechanics, to concentrate on their job rather than pack and unpack all the time. Having no transfers makes life easier and I know the teams love this.”
Herety – pleased to come back to NZ
His comments were echoed by John Herety, a former English road cyclist who represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games and is now the manager of English based JLT-Condor cycling team which finished third overall on the teams’ classification points table and won three out of five stages. Herety, who also attended the event in 2016, praised the way the whole the event was conducted.
“We are really pleased with how our team went, and congratulate IsoWhey on a very well raced tour. We were really pleased to come back to New Zealand and we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. It’s a wonderful event and we can’t wait to return next year,” he said.
Mr Sandoval said the logistics of staging an event like the Cycle Classic were complex and extensive.
He thanked the New Zealand Police who helped make the event safe for riders and the public; race officials and judges; the Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa District Councils; Destination Wairarapa, the regional tourism organisation; Trust House, NZ Community Trust; community sponsors including Fagan Motors, Mitre 10 Mega, The Sign Factory, MCS, Beehive, WizWireless and Ricoh as well as all volunteers and marshals who helped out during the week.
Sandoval – better each year
“As event organiser I want the tour to be better each year, this time was no exception. The racing was very good. It was full on all the time. It was very fast on Stage 4 with the average speed being 46kph. The top speed was 106kph down Te Wharau hill. We were unlucky with the weather on the first day but it got better as the week went on,” said Sandoval.
“This event can’t survive without the help of the Police. They are imperative for the safe conduct of the races on our public roads. They do a really good job with the race motor cycle marshals and the race officials who do our results are terrific.”
Mr Sandoval was also pleased with spectator turnout and increased community engagement this year. He also paid tribute to Catherine Rossiter Stead, who organized Huri Huri: Wairarapa’s Bike Festival.
“We were really pleased to see people at the farm gate waiting each day for the race to pass by and on the final day, spectators lined the course on the outskirts of Masterton. We haven’t seen that in the past which is really good,” he said. “People are realizing this is an international race that’s exciting to watch. The race atmosphere just gets better each year.”
“Also, the Huri Huri events held at the same time were great. It helped reinforce how much fun the sport of cycling is – from a participation level all the way through to seeing riders compete at an elite level. A great example was during stage three in Martinborough … there was a fantastic crowd watching the BMX freestyle display who then cheered the NZ Cycle Classic riders over the finish line. Many of these kids then got to meet the likes of Olympian Hamish Bond.”
Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock said both events helped put Wairarapa on the international cycling map and showcased the whole region.
“There’s no denying how important these events are to help showcase the Wairarapa to the world. We had 993 guests nights coming just from the tour group with supporters of the teams contributing to the whole economy – in terms of accommodation, spend at local cafes and retail outlets,” said Mr Hancock.
“Images of our rural scenery and our townships were beamed all around the world and race reports were being read globally each day. We had cycling fans in England, France, Italy and the Netherlands contacting us directly requesting information on the tour and copies of the Classic programme while many riders have indicated they will return home with nothing but positive comments on the region.”