Former New Zealand Ironman champion Mike Phillips has been confirmed in the New Zealand National team to contest this week’s UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic being held in Wairarapa and Wellington.
Today, race director Jorge Sandoval confirmed that Phillips, who won the 2019 New Zealand Ironman in Taupo and finished second in 2020 and 2021, will line up alongside current national champion George Bennett (UAE Team Emirates), Shane Archbold (Bora Hansgrohe); development rider in WorldTour team Groupama FDJ Laurence Pithie and exciting young prospect Xander White. Ten-year World Tour veteran Sam Bewley (Team Bike Exchange), who was originally named in the team, has withdrawn from the event due to a shoulder injury and has been replaced by talented Matias Fitzwater who ride for the UCI Continental EuroCyclingTrips – CMI Pro Cycling Team.
“It is going to be good to see how Mike goes in this tour. He is used to swimming, cycling and running, so I am really intrigued to watch him place all his efforts into the one discipline of road cycling,” says Sandoval, the Race Director for the five- stage elite men’s road cycling race being held from January 5th – 9th 2022.
“He will offer his team mates a lot – he’s strong on the flat, good at chasing and a good time trialist. I suspect he will do a lot of work at the front of the bunch chasing and protecting George Bennett.”
Phillips says it is great to be able to take part in events such as the New Zealand Cycle Classic with limited other racing opportunities due to current border restrictions bought about by global pandemic Covid-19. While the Christchurch based athlete hasn’t done a lot of cycle racing over the last decade, his experience competing in the 2021 Tour of Southland gave him an insight into what to expect on the road this week.
“Cycle racing is very different, there is a lot more surging, and it is also very tactical,” says Phillips.
“Ironman racing is a lot more individual and a steady state effort. I find the changes in pace the most difficult parts of the cycle racing. I have adjusted my training slightly to try and better prepare myself for this, but Ironman is still my main focus, so I have to bear that in mind.”
He also hopes it will provide a good base ahead of this month’s Tauranga Half Ironman, the New Zealand Ironman in early March and the World Ironman Champs in St George, Utah in May.
The New Zealand National team is one of 14 teams lining up for the only Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned stage race to be held in New Zealand in 2022. It will take place in Wairarapa for the first four days with the final day being held in and around Lambton Quay in central Wellington.
This team is not the only one that has had a late withdrawal due to injury. Last night it was confirmed that Bolton Equities Black Spoke Pro Cycling’s top rider Michael Vink, who won the yellow jersey in 2014 and won the 2021 Tour of Southland, has been replaced by Logan Currie after sustaining an injury.
Sandoval wishes both Bewley and Vink a speedy recovery, saying their presence would be missed this week.
“I was really looking forward to seeing Michael race after he did so well in the Tour of Southland and seeing Sam, one of the country’s top domestiques, in action. I hope they both recover quickly and wish them well for the rest of 2022,” says Sandoval.
Currie will line up alongside Regan Gough, who won the 2021 Club National Champion Road Race; Joshua Kench, whose career highlight to date is third place in the U23 Tour of Norway; Scottish track cyclist Mark Stewart; Ryan Christensen, who won two stages in the 2021 NZ Cycle Classic before recording a series of top 10 finishes in Europe this year, and upcoming rider Mitchel Fitzsimons.
The NZ Cycle Classic begins on Wednesday, 5th January with a Teams’ Time Trial held on a flat, 10km circuit beginning and finishing at Mitre 10 Mega Masterton. It continues the next day with riders racing through rolling hills and farmland from Masterton to Alfredton return, in a 158km stage that finishes outside the Masterton Golf Club in Lansdowne.
Stage three (127km) will see riders head south from Masterton to the pretty wine village of Martinborough while on Saturday, 8 January, riders will complete the 137.2km Queen stage including its new hilltop finish on Te Wharau Hill, one of the steepest climbs in Wairarapa.
The fifth and final stage is a circuit around Wellington’s streets, including along Lambton Quay. Prior to this, there will also be an opportunity for recreational riders to participate in a fun event called Cycle the Golden Mile, which debuted this year and was very successful with riders of all abilities taking part on a variety of different bicycles – including a Penny-farthing.
The 2022 NZ Cycle Classic is able to take place thanks to the generous support from Trust House, Mobile Communications Service, Wizwireless, Fagan Motors, Mitre 10 Mega Masterton and Lion Foundation plus all three Wairarapa District Councils.