Commonwealth Games gold medallist Corbin Strong will lead the New Zealand National team at next month’s UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic being staged in Wairarapa and Wellington.
Strong, who won the yellow jersey in this Tour in 2021, was a 2022 stage winner at the Tour of Britain and claimed gold in the Scratch race on the track at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, will lead a strong team in the five-day Tour being held from January 11th – 15th 2023. The New Zealand Cycle Classic is the only Internationale Union Cycliste event to be staged in New Zealand next year.
Strong will lead five young riders with experience in European tour racing including Lewis Bower, who rides for the UCI continental French Groupama-FDJ team, hill climber Jack Drage from the American Continental Hagens Berman Axeon team, Kiaan Watts from UCI continental Global 6 Cycling team, Ethan Craine, a member of UCI continental team, the Project Echelon Racing from USA and Alexander White who is a pro rider with the Bolton Equities Black Spoke Pro Cycling.
NZ Cycle Classic race director Jorge Sandoval says having Strong return to the event after an incredible two years of racing, which has saw him join UCI World Team Israel-Premier Tech earlier this year after two years with the Dutch-based SEG Academy team, is exciting news.
“I’ve been so fortunate to watch Corbin grow as an athlete from when he first began riding in the NZ Cycle Classic in 2020. Then he was a young rider oozing potential and possessing a huge amount of grit and tactical nous and to see him now return in 2023 as leader of this team is not surprising for me and I think will be a joy for all those who have followed his career – both on the road and track.”
Jorge predicts Strong will make the greatest impact during the grueling stage three, when riders finish atop Admiral Hill but he is dangerous on the flat as well as seen when he won stage one of the Tour of Britain in a sprint finish.
The NZ Cycle Classic begins in Masterton on Wednesday, 11th January with a fast 158.1km, meaning it will be crucial to any rider who is trying to take the yellow jersey to be in the best position possible. This stage concludes with a 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 two will see riders head south from Masterton to the wine village of Martinborough – concluding the 126.3km stage with fast and furious circuit race.
On Friday, 13th January, riders will complete the 155.5km Queen stage around the rolling hills of Gladstone including its famous hilltop finish – this year atop Admiral Hill.
“Stage three of the New Zealand Cycle Classic is renowned for its steep hilltop finish but for 2023, I’m putting a new twist on it making it even more challenging,” says Sandoval. “I’ve added extra hill climbs before the riders finish atop Admiral Hill, one of the steepest climbs in Wairarapa. Riders will climb a total of 2784 meters of altitude!”
The extra hill climbs before the end of Stage three will see riders 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 Admiral hill.
Stages 4 and 5 will be held in Wellington, New Zealand’s Capital City.
For the first time ever, stage four will be held around Wellington’s iconic Miramar Peninsular and feature hills, corners, and beautiful sea vistas while stage five returns to the centre of the city with a 12-lap circuit around Lambton Quay.
A new addition to the 2023 event is the Pedal Project Wellington Gran Fondo being held on Saturday 14th January where riders of all abilities will be given the opportunity to ride the Miramar Peninsular on the same challenging circuit as riders racing stage four of the Tour.
The 2023 NZ Cycle Classic is able to take place thanks to the generous support from Trust House, Mobile Communications Service, Wizwireless, Fagan Motors, Pedal project, Best Build Construction plus all three Wairarapa District Councils and Wellington City Council.
More information on the Tour can be found at: https://cycletournz.com/