Pedalling with the best

Pedalling with the best

Now in its 30th year, the New Zealand Cycle Classic is the only international event for Kiwi riders. This year, it attracted teams from top cycling nations, including Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, giving local riders an unparalleled competitive experience. The event was held in the Wairarapa from 22 to 26 January and drew record crowds.

"A highlight for me was seeing so many people who came to watch. It was great to see the community getting behind it," says Race Director Jorge Sandoval, who initiated the first two-day event in 1988 after badgering cycling officials about the lack of a top-level race in the Wellington region. “They eventually said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it?’, so I did!”

NZCT has funded the NZ Cycle Classic since 2009 and it’s grown in professionalism and renown around the world as a top-class event. This year’s race attracted Olympic rower Hamish Bond, who has recently switched to cycling. “He’d only competed in one major race and I thought he’d be a fish out of water with the elite riders as the tactics are very different, but he adapted really well,” says Jorge. “He’s a strong athlete and will be a very good cyclist once he’s learnt all the tricks. He surprised a lot of people.”

NZCT’s funding has put Jorge in a position to grow the event. “This funding means everything to me as an organiser,” he says. “We’re always competing against the bigger sports, like rugby, for money. With this event, our boys get to ride against the world’s best and that’s the most important thing for cycling in this country. We are very grateful for the support from NZCT and local publicans that enables us to stage the event.”