A record six Kiwi riders who will compete on the UCI World Tour next year will line-up in arguably the strongest ever men’s elite field for the BDO Road Cycling Nationals in Napier next month.
Added to that are three others in Pro Continental teams, which competed in Grand Tours this year, the 2016 and 2017 national champions and under-23 mountain bike world champion Sam Gaze among the 51-strong entries for the championships on 5-7 January.
The World Tour group includes time trial winner Jack Bauer who joins compatriot Sam Bewley at Mitchelton-Scott next year; Tour of California winner George Bennett (Lotto NL Jumbo); Tom Scully (EF Education First-Drapac); Patrick Bevin, who moves to the crack BMC Racing Team for 2018; and Alex Frame, who joins to the illustrious Trek-Segafredo.
Olympian Aaron Gate is joined by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Shane Archbold at the Irish-based Aqua Blue Sport, while Dion Smith is back at the Wanty-Groupe Gobert. Both teams gained invites to Grand Tours this year with Smith competing in this first Tour de France.
Canterbury’s Hamish Schreurs returns to the Israel Cycling Academy, also in the Pro Continental division, one spot below full World Tour status.
Wellington’s Joe Cooper, who has been in outstanding form for Isowhey Sports in 2017, will defend his road race crown and will be joined by Canterbury’s Jason Christie, the 2016 road race champion, who rides for the Malaysian-based Team Sapura continental team.
Gaze, who showed a glimpse of his road cycling skills with victory in the recent Vantage New Zealand Criterium Championships, has also entered along with rowing great, Hamish Bond, who converted to cycling after the Rio Olympics.
“I can’t recall so many New Zealand riders in World Tour and other significant professional teams around the world,” said Cycling New Zealand’s Graeme Hunn. “That is not only going to make the race a fantastic spectacle, it is also encouraging for our sport going forward, especially with the young riders coming through our endurance track programme and our Subway Regional Performance Hubs.”
Other notable professionals in the field include Taylor Gunman (Madison Genesis) and Hayden McCormick and James Oram (both ONE Pro Cycling), both UK-based Continental teams.
The time trial, over 40kms, is again based at Church Road Winery on Friday 5 January.
The road race is a similar course to 2017, although there is no added flat lap at the end of the course to bring the riders back in the opposite direction to the finish line. Instead after the rural loop (81km for males), the riders head over Napier Hill to the start-finish line, with a further eight full city loops over the hill, leaving a 500m sprint finish along the foreshore on the final lap to the finish.
The men’s elite race, which also includes the under-23 males, is 171kms starting at 8.30am on Sunday 7 January. The field for the elite women will be released on Friday.