All Eyes On Black Spoke Ahead Of Nz Cycle Classic
Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy are not shy about their ambitions when lining up to contest this week’s UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic, a five-day race being held in Wairarapa and Wellington.
“It would be great to take out the overall win and stage wins along the way,” says team manager Scott Guyton.
“We have a well-rounded team with individuals that can do well over all the terrains Wairarapa has to offer. We also have the National Criterium champion, Aaron Gate in the team and we are looking forward to seeing him race in the National jersey in our Capital City on the last stage.”
Black Spoke is the country’s only professional Union Cycliste Internationale team and one of 14 teams competing in this year’s Tour which begins this evening in Masterton with a teams’ time trial. Lead by 2019 NZ Cycle Classic winner Aaron Gate, who also claimed his second Tour of Southland title in November, Black Spoke features a who’s who of Kiwi track and road talent. Tipped as one of the overall race favourites, the team has a good chance of defending their Teams’ Classification jersey. Gate is ably backed up by Luke Mudgway, James Oram, Campbell Stewart, Joel Yates and Kiaan Watts.
The team acknowledges this year’s Classic will be different almost 100 per cent domestic riders in action due to global Covid-19 travel restrictions. But Guyton says they will race to win.
“While we don’t have an international field, the domestic teams are still very strong, and we don’t underestimate them. The NZ Cycle Classic is still a UCI race and very important for the team being our first race of the season and one of the first on the UCI calendar with points up for grabs. The Black Spoke riders intend to always put their best foot forward in every race and perform to the best of their abilities.”
Black Spoke is likely to be pushed by the New Zealand National team featuring Finn Fisher-Black, Ollie Jones, Laurence Pithie, Reuben Thompson, Corbin Strong and Regan Gough as well as Australian based St George Continental who is racing with a team of Kiwi riders. This includes 2014 NZ Cycle Classic winner Michael Vink, Classic stage winner Dylan Kennett, James Harvey, Matt Zenovich, Hamish Keast and Baily O’Donnell.
St. George spokesperson Brett Dutton says with limited race opportunities last year and through into 2021, it means the team needs to take any opportunity it can.
“We are pleased to be able to give our New Zealand riders an opportunity to race the New Zealand Cycle Classic. Our riders are aware of the importance of the event and will be training to be in peak condition,” he says.
“We go into every race with the aim of doing our best and taking part in the race, not just following. By this I mean to be seen in breakaways and to make the race. We aim to be aggressive from the drop of the flag on day one. We have some new riders from New Zealand, and I am sure they will take this opportunity to show us what they are capable of.”
2018 NZ Cycle Classic winner Hayden McCormick will don a new racing strip this Tour, lining up for the Kiwi Velo Team lead by Logan Currie and supported by Callum Nisbet, Alex Williams, Ewart Bower and Campbell Pithie.
Interestingly, guiding the fortunes of the Cycling New Zealand team of Ryan Christensen, Drew Christensen, Max Beckert, Tom Sexton, James Barnes and Karl Poole is former New Zealand Olympian and Commonwealth Games cyclist Greg Henderson. After an outstanding career racing all around the world, last year Henderson was the performance manager for Israel Start-up Nation and worked with the team at the highest level - during the Tour de France, Giro Italia amongst other races. This year, he is hoping to give more back to cycling in this country.
"I bring to the team sprint and race tactics as well as a thorough overview of what it takes to get to the start line. There's a lot more to being a professional bike rider than riding your bike fast,” he said. "I hope I can teach them something and I hope they can learn something from me."
Race director Jorge Sandoval is thrilled to welcome Henderson to the event.
“A great privilege for the New Zealand Cycle Classic to have Greg come to our race as team manager. What he is doing is great for the young riders in the team, they will learn from someone who has raced all the famous races all over the world. A couple of the riders in the team where not even born when Greg started winning races”
Established in 1988, the five-stage New Zealand Cycle Classic is a UCI level 2 sanctioned event and Sandoval believes it will be the sole stage tour being held in the world this month due to Covid-19 and global travel restrictions. It has attracted 14 teams of six riders who will race through and around the Wairarapa region before finishing in Wellington city.
It opens tonight at 6pm with a teams’ welcome at Mitre 10 MEGA Masterton followed by a 10km team's time trial at 6.30pm. Tomorrow morning is a 158.1km stage taking riders north towards Eketahuna and back, before they finish outside the Masterton Golf Club in Lansdowne.
Friday’s stage three is 127km that takes riders from Masterton south to Martinborough including racing eight laps through the town Square, while stage four – known as the Queen Stage – on Saturday is a challenging hilly, 127km that sees riders climb the 6km Te Wharau Hill twice before grinding up the steep Admiral Hill in Gladstone for a hilltop finish. It concludes in Wellington on Sunday with a fast-paced criterium around the inner-city streets of Lambton Quay. Earlier in the day a fun new community event called Cycle the Golden Mile will be held for cyclists of all ages and abilities with Lambton Quay already closed off to traffic. This is a rare opportunity for those registered, to cycle up the Capital City’s famous shopping strip with no traffic.
The 2020 NZ Cycle Classic can take place thanks to the generous support from Trust House, Wellington City Council, Mobile Communications Service, Wizwireless, Fagan Motors, Mitre 10 Mega Masterton, Cross Country Rentals, Tineli and Lion Foundation plus all three Wairarapa District Councils.