For the first time in two years, Wairarapa and Wellington will welcome back international road cyclists as the region prepares to host next week’s Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic.
After Covid-19 restrictions impacted the 2021 and 2022 Tours, Race Director Jorge Sandoval has assembled an outstanding line up of 15 teams that feature riders from Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Guam, Laos, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands and South Africa as well as New Zealand’s top road cyclists and exciting, emerging talent.
“It’s great to see the return of international cyclists to the New Zealand Cycle Classic and I extend a warm welcome to everyone. I know there are many teams who will be racing on our New Zealand roads for the first time ever and several teams, such as KINAN Racing team from Japan, who are returning after a two-year hiatus due to Covid,” says Sandoval.
“In addition, we’ve a who’s who of top Kiwi riders in action and this will give them a great opportunity to test themselves against the world’s best riders, many of whom are choosing to begin their 2023 racing season here in New Zealand.”
The five-day New Zealand Cycle Classic is the only UCI road race being held in New Zealand this year and begins in Masterton on Wednesday 11th January and concludes five days later in Wellington city.
Sandoval will welcome top Kiwi riders from two newly formed teams – I Built and Pista Corsa Development – as well as top Black Spoke Pro Academy, who was elevated to the UCI Pro Teams rank late last year and the New Zealand National team. They will join teams that have never been to New Zealand before such as Wheelsports-Metropol Racing from Germany.
Wheelsports team manager Bastian Jackel says they’re looking forward to the trip down under.
“We know it should be a great race. We’ve never raced that far away and we’re really looking forward to it. All riders are super motivated,” says Jackel. “This will definitely be the highlight of the year for everyone. We are excited to see how the race will be run but expect a high level. Of course, even though there are no races here at the moment (winter in Europe), we hope that we can cope well with the change of weather. We’re also hoping for some good results. New Zealand is currently the number one topic of conversation in the team.”
They will join other riders and zoom through and around the townships of Masterton, Carterton and Martinborough as well on roads that pass-through rolling rural countryside, vineyards and olive groves for the first three stages.
But there has been a significant change to stage four. For the first time ever, this will be held around the Miramar Peninsular in Wellington on Saturday 14th January while stage five returns to the centre of the city with a 12-lap circuit around Lambton Quay on Sunday 15th January. This means there will be road closures in the Capital City for parts of both days.
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.
Over the years Sandoval’s Tour has developed an international reputation for unearthing new talent and helping up-and-coming riders step onto a bigger platform. Top lead out rider Julian Dean, Chris Jenner, Robbie McEwen and Hayden Roulston all claimed the yellow jersey while many others have gone on to ride in the Tour de France and the Giro Italia.
“More recently Aaron Gate won the Tour in 2019 and then with Campbell Stewart has won multiple stages before going onto the Olympics and Commonwealth Games with both winning incredible medals on the track and road,” says Sandoval.
The Trust House UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic officially opens at 9.30am on Wednesday, 11th January at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort Solway Park Masterton with a welcome to all the teams. The 158km stage one will see riders depart from the Hotel at 10am before heading northeast of Masterton into the countryside before concluding with a 2km uphill to finish outside the Masterton Golf Club, the home of golfing great Sir Bob Charles.
Stage two will see riders head south from Masterton to the wine village of Martinborough finishing the stage with an eight-lap circuit around the village while on Friday, 13th January, riders will complete the 155km “Queen” stage with its famous hilltop finish.
“Stage three of the New Zealand Cycle Classic is renowned for its steep hilltop finish on Admiral Hill in Gladstone. 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 hilltop finish on Admiral Hill, one of the steepest climbs in Wairarapa. Riders will climb a total of 2784 meters of altitude!”
Stage four is a circuit around the picturesque Miramar Peninsular in Wellington while the Tour concludes in Wellington city on Sunday with a fast-paced criterium around the inner-city streets of Lambton Quay.
“This is the third year in a row we’ve held the final stage in central Wellington, after I originally staged the Tour there in 1988 and then in 2011 when it was won by a young George Bennett,” says Sandoval. “It is just so exciting as the riders are flying and racing hard to get those final UCI points. The last two years we’ve seen incredible performances from Campbell Stewart (2021) and Regan Gough (2022) giving the crowd plenty to cheer about. I can only speculate as to who will take it this year, regardless, it will be fast and exciting, and I want to thank Wellington City Council for their support in returning this to Wellington’s inner-city streets.”
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.
All stages HERE
Gran Fondo HERE