Tuesday 17 January 2017
Sandoval rates 2017 NZ Cycle Classic field the best in the event’s 30 year history. New Zealand Cycle Classic race director Jorge Sandoval is a man of strong views, but not exaggeration. So when he talks about the field for this month’s UCI 2.2 five-stage event being held entirely in the Wairarapa, as the best he’s assembled, you know he is being sincere. “We’ve had some fantastic fields over the previous 29 years with riders coming from Europe, America, Asia and Australia, but I believe the 2017 field to be the best ever,” Sandoval said.
“Having 10 overseas teams, including riders from Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Colombia, Italy, the Philippines, Indonesia and some of the top riders from Australia and New Zealand taking part, I think this year’s event is going to be fantastic.”
The New Zealand Cycle Classic, which celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year, gets underway on Sunday, 22nd January and concludes five days later. To celebrate Sandoval has three new routes planned including the opening stage which takes riders from Masterton to the spectacular coastal community of Castlepoint; “The Five Towns” which will see riders cycle through all five of the Wairarapa’s characterful townships and a fast 12 lap, 10km circuit just west of Masterton.
He is predicting days of exciting racing.
“Team JLT Condor will make things very difficult for the other teams. It is fully professional. The riders have been in training camps and racing with success in Australia for a month,” said Sandoval.
“While among the New Zealanders, the hottest name is 2017 New Zealand road champion Joe Cooper who is a professional rider with UCI registered team IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness. He should be right up there when the tour heads into the steep hills as well as 2010 tour winner Michael Torckler and Brad Evans, the latter who will be racing the tour as part of the New Zealand national team.”
Australian riders have won the Tour five times in the last nine years so Sandoval expects there to be several genuine tour-winning prospects taking part. However he also expects much attention will fall on Hamish Bond, who recently made the transition from rowing to road cycling.
“We also have Hamish Bond who won back-to-back Olympic golds in the men’s coxless pair and eight world championship titles. Bond will race alongside New Zealand professional cyclist Michael Torckler in the Blindz Direct team and no doubt, this is the real test for Bond in his short cycling career.”
The New Zealand Cycle Classic started out in Wellington with stages raced through the central city, along Lambton Quay and on main roads linking Lower Hutt to Waikanae. For a time, it was jointly held in Wairarapa and Wellington, then moved to Manawatu, before returning to the region in 2016. The Tour has become renowned for unearthing new talent or helping up-and-coming riders step onto a bigger platform.
“We’ve had the likes of Julian Dean, Chris Jenner, Robbie McEwen and Hayden Roulston all claim the yellow jersey while many others have gone on to ride in the Tour de France. For me that is very rewarding,” says Sandoval.
Sandoval, who came to New Zealand from Chile in 1976 as a political refugee, is very proud of what he has achieved. First he had to learn English, and to have created the classic, and successfully run it for the last 29 years is a tribute to his persistence, organising skills and love of cycling. “The classic is now one of the biggest international cycle races in Oceania,” he said. “Moving the tour to the Wairarapa permanently is the best for the event. I’ve been working really hard for the last 29 years to get the event where it is today and to ensure the people of New Zealand see a top cycling spectacle. Having the support of companies such as Trust House, the New Zealand Community Trust and all Wairarapa authorities among others, has made things easier.” Being held simultaneously is Huri Huri: Wairarapa’s Bike Festival which celebrates the Wairarapa’s bike-friendly roads, tracks and trails; the people that ride on them and the bikes they ride. The 2017 Festival (www.hurihuri.co.nz) has a variety of events and activities held across the region, catering to all levels of involvement in biking and to all ages. These include the Town to Tide multisport race; the Castlepoint Station family fun ride; Pedal for Parkinsons road cycle; mountainbike workshops and a kids programme.
“The Wairarapa is fantastic destination for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Our local authorities are very pro-active in making it a top cycling destination in New Zealand and having the Cycle Classic based here as well as the HuriHuri is helping them achieve that goal.”
“I look forward to seeing the Cycle Classic grow in importance in the Wairarapa, and receive increasing support within the local community,” said Sandoval.
For more information please visit www.cycletournz.com.