In announcing that Wairarapa will once again host the 2022 New Zealand Cycle Classic, in either Alert Level one or two, race director Jorge Sandoval has also unveiled a new hilltop summit finish on the gruelling “Queen Stage.”
The five-stage elite men’s road cycling race will be held from January 5th – 9th 2022 and will be the only Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned stage race to be held in New Zealand. It will take place in Wairarapa for the first four days with the final day being held in and around Lambton Quay in Wellington. Because rider numbers will be capped at 80, Sandoval will be able to hold the event in either Alert Levels one or two.
Like previous years, the NZ Cycle Classic will feature five exciting days of racing around the townships of Masterton, Carterton and Martinborough as well on roads that pass through rolling rural countryside and vineyards. But there has been a significant change to stage four – known as the Queen Stage – which Sandoval says will test all riders to their maximum.
“Stage four of the New Zealand Cycle Classic is renowned for its steep hilltop finish on Admiral Hill in Gladstone. But for 2022, I’m putting a new twist on it making it even more challenging,” says Sandoval. “I’ve added extra hill climbs before a new hilltop finish on Te Wharau Hill, one of the steepest climbs in Wairarapa. Riders will climb a total of 2784 meters of altitude!”
Stage four will see riders start in Masterton and head towards Gladstone before turning left up the 7km Te Wharau Hill to complete two laps of a 43km circuit comprising of Te Wharau, Wainuiorou and Limeworks hills. After the second lap, riders will turn left onto Lees Pakaraka Road to complete the circuit the opposite way climbing once again Limeworks and the steep side of Te Wharau to the finish at the top of the hill.
Mr Sandoval says each of these circuits will require concentration both uphill and downhill with riders expected to reach speeds up to 100km/h racing down the step side of Te Wharau. He says the 136km stage will be the longest and toughest in the NZ Cycle Classic’s 35-year history.
Another new addition to the 2022 event is the Premier Beehive Gran Fondo being held on Saturday 8th January where the community will be given the opportunity to ride the same challenging circuit.
“Having the New Zealand Cycle Classic and this community event held simultaneously will give the community a chance to see some of the world’s best riders in action and provide them with opportunities to get out on their own bikes and discover the Wairarapa one road at a time,” says Mr Sandoval.
Mr Sandoval said registrations for the Gran Fondo open this Friday 8 October and he will monitor these numbers closely, as the field may have to be capped to 300 riders if New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
The NZ Cycle Classic begins on Wednesday, 5th January with a Teams’ Time Trial held on a 10km circuit beginning and finishing at Mitre 10 Mega Masterton. The Tour continues the next day with riders racing from Masterton to Alfredton in a 121km stage finishing outside the Masterton Golf Club in Lansdowne.
“Stage two is a relatively short, fast 122km that could take place in very hot conditions. It will be crucial to any rider who is trying to take the Tour victory to be in the best position possible, before embarking on the 2km uphill to finish outside the Masterton Golf Club, the home of golfing great Sir Bob Charles. During this year’s race riders told me how much they enjoyed this as spectators lined the streets and cheered them on as they zoomed past their front doors towards the finish line.”
Stage three will see riders head south from Masterton to the wine village of Martinborough while on Saturday, 8 January, riders will complete the 136km Queen stage with the new hilltop finish.
The fifth and final stage is a circuit around central Wellington’s streets. This year’s circuit was one by Olympian Campbell Stewart.
Sandoval will announce teams that will take part in the Tour over the coming weeks. With many international races being cancelled because of Covid-19, this event will be the only UCI race staged in Oceania next January.
Sandoval has hinted that several Kiwi riders who would traditionally be racing off-shore have expressed an interest in competing while riders from Black Spoke PRO Cycling, New Zealand’s only Union Cycliste Internationale professional team, are keen to return after making their debut at the 2020 event.
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.
“My team and I are very grateful for all the support from our sponsors and key stakeholders and together look forward to making this New Zealand’s biggest international cycle tour,” says Mr Sandoval.