Jorge Sandoval is a man of strong views, but not exaggeration. So when the Grassroots Trust New Zealand Cycle Classic race director talks about the field for this month’s UCI 2.2 five-stage elite men’s cycle tour being held entirely in the Waipā region, as the best he’s assembled … you know he’s being sincere.
“We’ve had some fantastic fields over the previous 31 years with riders coming from Europe, America, Asia and Australia, but I believe the 2019 field to be the best ever,” Sandoval says. “All teams in this year’s quality field have their own reputation. We have 14 overseas teams, including riders from Australia, England, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Serbia, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands and some of the top riders from New Zealand taking part … it’s going to be fantastic.”
The New Zealand Cycle Classic celebrates its 32nd Anniversary this year and begins on Wednesday, 23rd January and concludes five days later. After being staged in the Wairarapa for the last three years it will be staged entirely in and around the surrounds of Waipā and will feature new race routes that will test all riders. These include the opening stage which takes riders around Waipā district, a stage from Cambridge to the spectacular Mighty River Domain at Karapiro and stage four that will see riders cycle twice up Maungakawa hill. The tour will culminate with eight laps completed around Cambridge.
Sandoval is predicting exciting racing from all teams.
Switzerland’s national pursuit cycling team is coming back to the event for the second time. The team is led by Lukas Rügeg, the current national champion and winner of the King of the Mountains competition at the eight days 2018 Rás Tailteann international cycle tour in Ireland, and Thery Schir, who competed at the 2016 Olympic Games, finished fourth place in the Madison at the 2016 World Champs and recorded strong results in international Tour of Portugal, Fleche Du Sud in the Netherlands and other events. Other members include: Stefan Bissegger, 2016 winner of the Driedaagse Van Axel tour and sprints classification in the Netherlands; Frank Pasche and Cyrille Thièry – all experienced riders in stage races around Europe.
“This may be the Swiss track team but most of their success over the last few years has come at international stage races like our event, they are accomplish riders on the road as well as on the track. If there is a bunch finish in this year’s tour, I am sure some of these Swiss riders will be right amongst the leaders” says Sandoval.
As well as the Swiss team, Sandoval also announced today the confirmation of 10 Australian teams. The St George Continental team will be led by winner of the 2014 New Zealand Cycle Classic Michael Vink who is looking forward to the tour.
“Of course we would like to win the tour, but we also have some very fast sprinters in our line-up,” says Vink. “It’s our first race of the season, and a new team for me, so hopefully we can work together well and start the season off in a positive way. The tour has grown so much in recent years. It gets great support from overseas teams and you only have to look at the past winners to see the importance of the race.”
“It will be nice having new roads to race on in the Waikato. The Cycle Classic is always exciting and no two editions are ever the same, so I’m really looking forward to what the Waikato will bring,” says Vink.
Sandoval is also thrilled to welcome back defending champion Hayden McCormick and his teammate Joseph Cooper racing for Team BridgeLane, one of the most prominent teams racing on the Oceania circuit, and two Japanese teams making their debut in the tour.
He says their names have continued a long New Zealand Cycle Classic tradition of 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, who came to New Zealand from Chile in 1976 as a political refugee and had to learn English before channelling all his energies into organising and growing this long-standing event.
“The Classic is now one of the biggest international cycle races in Oceania,” says Sandoval. “Moving the tour to the Waikato was a hard thing to do but is the best for the event. I’ve been working really hard for the last 31 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 Brian Perry Charitable Trust, Grassroots Trust, Waipā District Council among others, has been incredible. I look forward to seeing this event grow in importance in this region and receive increasing support within the local community.”
Being held simultaneously with the Grassroots New Zealand Cycle Classic is Three Peaks RIDE New Zealand’s Cycling Festival, a week-long festival encouraging people of all ages and stages of cycling to get out and ride more regularly. These two events have been made possible thanks to the generous support from the Brian Perry Charitable Trust and the Waipā District Council.
For more information please visit www.cycletournz.com.