A record number of cycling teams will be in the Manawatu for the UCI Gravel & Tar races, with hundreds expected to take part in public events over the 2019 Wellington Anniversary weekend.
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Now in its fourth year, the UCI Gravel & Tar Classic is a gruelling 130km international men’s – and now women’s – cycle race which includes 45km of gravel and is reputed to be the hardest race in Australasia.
More than a dozen teams have signalled their attendance with riders hailing from as far afield as Ireland. Added to this year’s event for the first time is the Gravel & Tar La Femme, the equivalent international women’s cycle race drawing seven teams aiming to conquer the course.
Race director Steve Stannard says the record number of international teams coming to the Manawatu is testament to the legend of the race.
“We hear every year of riders wanting to come and conquer our race and the challenge it brings. It’s the toughest one-day race outside of Europe and we want that momentum to keep building.”
The riders in the women’s race will be truly tested and they wouldn’t want it any other way, says women’s director Jo Holdaway.
“They are coming here to get those crucial UCI points and they want these hard, competitive races.”
An equal prize purse is another drawcard as sportswomen all over the world call for greater equality.
Greasy Chain Trust which runs the Gravel & Tar events have teamed up with the Manawatu Mountain Bike Club for the weekend of biking.
Public events such as Slicks and Stones 100 and the Arapuke Classic are being held on 19 January and 20 January respectively.
“We are already seeing social media conversations where riders want to come for both events and stoked that it grows the public’s involvement in recreation as well as showing junior riders a path to the international scene”.
For those cyclists from Manawatu and Wellington, whether it’s one race or two, the public holiday on Monday will be a well-deserved break.