The Trust House North Island Series kicks off on 22nd September and is gaining a reputation as the premier masters cycling series in the country.  Five rounds over two months provides regular competition for riders from 35 years onwards.  We caught up with Jorge Sandoval to discuss what’s new, where New Zealand is at, and more.

It’s not so long ago that the Trust House North Island Series was an event for everyone from U23s to elites to masters.  A couple of seasons ago, though, Jorge Sandoval made the bold step of going to an exclusively masters format.  It’s a decision he’s not looked back on.  

“The change to go with masters-only grades for the last two years has proven very successful, we have over 25 teams taking part each year amongst the three grades.  Master riders also really want to be able to race against riders of a similar age and most teams are made up of a group of friends getting together and having a go at teams racing,” Jorge told RoadCycling.  

“There are not many opportunities in New Zealand for masters riders to race against other riders of a similar age so our series fits nicely for all riders of different ages. All riders also really enjoy the circuits in the Wairarapa, during the five race series which has a mixture of undulating and hilly races as well as a race that goes over 6km of gravel.”

Sandoval’s enthusiasm around masters racing is well founded, but along with it is a concern over the position of cycling for the younger generations coming through.  “To be honest, road cycling in NZ at the moment is in a very bad shape, there is no incentive for young road riders to follow on a path, most people do their own things and there are very few opportunities for young riders to get decent competition in our country other than the New Zealand Cycle Classic and Gravel and Tar UCI races,” Sandoval told us.

The Trust House Series centres around the beautiful Wairarapa region, photo Di

“There is not professional cycling here.  If you look at any fun race across the country, you’ll see the highest numbers of participants are master riders, is hard to get younger riders to participate.”

The numbers do speak for themselves.  At the recent Age Group Road National Championships 30 riders in the 45-49 age group took on the men’s road race while there were just 18 in the U23 men’s.  In fact, all the way up to the 60-64 age group the start list constantly tips over the 30 bracket while in the U23 and Senior men’s and women’s categories the highest number of starters in any race was 24.  At the K2 Road Cycle Classic last year 19 elite riders (the total of both men and women combined) lined up, while 41 men rode in the 35-39 age bracket alone, 50 in the 40-44 and 80 in the 45-49 bracket. 

There is hope for our young riders though.  54 riders took on the U19 men’s race with 32 U19 women riding, certainly showing that the talent is there.  The Holden Men’s Classic and Bayley’s Women’s Classic Race at the BDO Taupo Cycle Challenge drew 76 and 42 riders respectively.  The Calder Stewart Series notably bucks the trend where masters outnumber elites and young riders with the opening round of this year’s series in Dunedin seeing 96 (70 men and 26 women) U19s, U23s and elites do battle, in contrast to the 55 riders from 35-44 to 50+ categories.

Dynamo Events take a different approach again with their Team Championship, categorising the racing according to grade as opposed to age group in order to provide as level a playing field as possible regardless of age.  Their approach saw their 2018-19 opener have 360+ riders take in racing across their categories with category 3 racing being the most popular with 85 riders, although that figure is an amalgamation of age groups.

As far as Sandoval is concerned something has to be done to facilitate the potential that is there at young rider level in order to bolster those numbers once they reach U23 and elite level nationwide rather than seeing these numbers broadly dwindle.  In the Wairarapa, however, it’s a masters series that will continue on for the foreseeable future.

“I believe this country needs a decent national series like the one in Australia,” Jorge said.  “If you look at our Trust House North Island team series, the Dynamo Series and the Calder Stewart Series, the template to run a national series is already there, all CNZ needs to do is to be open to promote road racing.  It has been proven that unless you live in Cambridge or Invercargill that no matter how many medals we get on the track, I don’t see hundreds of people running to a bike shop to buy a track bike, most people want to do road racing but unfortunately not much is done.”

The Trust House North Island Series is entirely devoted to masters racing across five races in 2 months, photo Di

“We are very happy to carry on with masters grades only, the region of Wellington doesn’t have the number of “elite” riders to justify having an elite grade or U23 grade in the series.  The numbers we have in the masters grades is what we want, no more than 80 riders in any grade to ensure we run a safe race for everyone.  There is no point in having a younger grade in the series that may get 12-15 riders each race, it’s better to use your resources on people who really want to race and right now masters riders are the ones making up fields up and down the country.”

Anyone familiar with the Trust House Series will be able to look forward to a similar format to those of years past as the team get ready for the 2019 edition, with similar distances on offer that takes into account the needs of the riders and team managers as communicated at the end of last year’s series.

“Basically [there will not be] many changes other than a new circuit that we are looking to include in this year’s series.  We did a survey after last year’s series asking team managers and riders what changes, if any, they want to see the following year.  Most riders input was to keep the series races as close to each other as possible, not long gaps between races, distances to stay at 80-90km per race and because of other family commitments, to do all races on Sunday and we made these adjustments.”

“We have employed a new company for this year’s Enter on Line system that will be easier for team managers and riders to enter each race.  The system also is able to create a start list, update points and race results straight away after every race, I believe this will be welcome by all riders who in the past have expressed issues with the old system.”

To find out more about the Trust House North Island Team Series or to enter the 2019 edition click here.


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