A burgeoning pack of UCI World Tour riders will add considerable interest to next week’s Vantage Road Cycling National Championships in Cambridge.
The championships are part of the annual RIDE Festival with a criterium at Hamilton Airport on Thursday 13 February, Vantage Elite time trials on Friday, the RIDE Festival Gran Fondo on Saturday and Vantage Elite road races on Sunday.
The weekend activities will be based at the Cambridge Village Green, with the time trials at the Podium Lodge near the Avantidrome.
The elite women’s race of 108km comprises a single country loop that incorporates a circuit of Scotsmans Valley and a loop of Maungakawa and French Pass before returning for two town laps with the elite men riding 174kms with two smaller and one large country loops and six laps of the town circuit.
The championships, traditionally held in the New Year, were moved to mid-February partly at the request of the professional riders who have a break from early season major events across the Tasman in mid-February and will have the benefit of some racing kilometres in their legs.
The elite men’s field includes World Tour riders George Bennett (Jumbo Visma), Shane Archbold (Deceunick-Quick Step), Sam Bewley and Dion Smith (Mitchelton Scott) and a host of other Continental professionals including a healthy contingent from the New Zealand-based Black Spoke team.
Overall men’s winner last year, Auckland’s James Fouche, who will ride for the US-based Hagens Berman Axeon pro team this year, will be chasing a third-straight under-23 title.
The female ranks include UCI international pro team riders Georgia Williams (Mitchelton-Scott), Sharlotte Lucas (TIBCO-SVB), Ella Harris (Canyon-SRAM), Grace Anderson (BePink), Mikayla Harvey and Niamh Fisher-Black (Katusha Bigla) and Jenna Merrick (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport).
Added to that are some of the talented young riders from the Vantage elite track squad, who are not involved in the world track championships this month, including Ally Wollaston and Jessie Hodges.
The Time Trials start at 10am on Friday 14 February with women over 20km and men over 39km, with the Road Race starting from Victoria Square in Cambridge from 8am for elite and under-23 females and 9.30am for elite and under-23 males.