The welcome mat will be laid out to two top international cycling teams competing in January’s Union Cycliste Internationale 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic being staged in Wairarapa and Wellington
Race Director Jorge Sandoval says the two teams set to make their debut at the five-stage elite men’s road cycling race being held from Wednesday January 11th – 15th, are Roojai Online Insurance – a UCI team registered in Thailand and EuroCyclingTrips, a UCI continental team registered from Guam. Both teams are made up of experienced riders from France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Thailand with EuroCycling Trips featuring Kiwi rider Boris Clark.
“After Covid impacted the 2021 and 2022 New Zealand Cycle Classic, the interest from international teams wanting to race in January has been exceptional and at this stage we’ve 11 nationalities looking to be represented in the peloton,” says Sandoval. “It’s super exciting for New Zealand, for Wellington and Wairarapa, to lay out the welcome mat to these experienced riders. I’ve no doubt their inclusion will make for such an exciting race.”
Sandoval says EuroCyclingTrips,previously called Equipe CMI (registered in the USA and based in France), has been in existence for 12 years and will be led by Great Britain’s Simeon Green, who is excited about coming to New Zealand.
“The New Zealand Cycle Classic is a race you tend to hear a bit about in Europe because it is so early, so I’ve followed it over the years. I’ve never started a cycling season this early before, but the opportunity to go all the way around the other side of the earth and race in a country you hear so many amazing things about is super motivating,” says Green.
Green will be joined by French riders Guillaume Soula and Thomas Peyroton, Belgium rider Niels Verdijck, Edward Oingerang from Guam and Kiwi Clark.
Team manager Lara Ferrin says the team is counting down the days until they arrive.
“New Zealand is a much dreamed-of destination for people … a bit of a dreamland. Every rider on our roster expresses an interest and desire to race the NZ Cycle Classic and to visit New Zealand,” says Ferrin.
“Selecting a team for the race has been tough as we must weigh up several parameters ranging from costs with increasing flight prices, balancing a rider’s own expectations with the cycling season being so long and the NZ races being so early. Finding a balance of riders that enables us to send the ideal mix of experienced, performing and development riders is key. If it were up to the riders, the entire team would show up at Wellington airport as visiting NZ inspires everyone to travel.”
The Roojai Online Insurance Team is also made up of top international riders. German Lucas Carstensen is a top sprinter and winner of many races in Europe and the Asian circuit while hill climber teammate Adne Van Engelen from The Netherlands and Ariya Phounsavath from Laos are all ones to watch.
Team manager Peter Pouly says they’ve heard the Tour is a tough race with crosswinds and some hard stages, but the excitement of racing down under is high.
“Our team’s purpose is to expose our young Thai riders to foreign riders and have high level of races to get experience and develop. The second purpose is to become one of best teams in Asia,” Pouly says. “All the riders live in Thailand, and they can train well during winter (so) we believe to start the season early in New Zealand will be an advantage for the first part of the year.”
Pouly believes the team will be competitive on general classification (GC) and bunch sprints and predicts sprinter Lucas Carstensen will shine in his first race in New Zealand.
Sandoval gives these two teams a lot of credit.
“Made up of riders with vast experience in stage races around the world, including Tour of Langkawi, Korea and Turkey, they have my utmost respect. I’m sure cyclist fans are really in for a treat next January,” says Sandoval. “Most people have heard only of the Tour de France and Tour of Spain but some of the Asian circuit is harder to win than other 2.1 European races. I’ve been to the Tours of Taiwan and Qinghai Lake in China twice, so I know how hard these races are.”
The 2023 NZ Cycle Classic can take place thanks to the generous support from Trust House, Mobile Communications Service, Wizwireless, Fagan Motors, Pedal Project and Best Build Construction plus all three Wairarapa District Councils and Wellington City Council. It begins in Masterton on January 11th and concludes in Lambton Quay in Wellington five days later.
Another 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.
More information on the Tour can be found at: https://cycletournz.com/