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New organisers are excited about the changes they are introducing to New Zealand’s only team based cycle racing series, the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series that starts in Canterbury on the 2nd of March.
Experienced cycle event management company Tailwind Events have taken over the running of the series from the Papanui Cycling Club, with spokesperson Simon Hollander very enthusiastic about this year’s six round series.
“Greg Hume and the Papanui Club did a great job getting the series started eight years ago, but they now need a hand to inject some new energy and ideas,” he said. “We have applied our experience from running a number of other cycling events and I’m really pleased with how the series is now looking for this year,” he said.
New initiatives include the introduction of a standalone masters race - with leader’s jerseys for over 35 and 45 years of age available - a round of the series in Queenstown and a possible criterium or final time trial as part of the final round of racing in October in Canterbury.
“We have listened to what the riders want and we have also looked at what will work for sponsors and stakeholders in the series. There are a lot of strong master’s racers so we are looking to cater for them as well as continue to develop the stand alone elite and women’s categories.”
Hollander said the first teams to enter came from the master’s category but he was looking forward to seeing entries develop from the elite and women’s categories this week.
“This series attracts the best riders in the country that are not overseas racing so I’m really keen to see who is named in the various teams. There is nothing like this series in the country. It gives riders the chance to experience riding with support vehicles and a race convoy usually only seen in large domestic tour events like the Powernet Tour of Southland and the NZCT Cycle Classic in the Manawatu.”
Riders named so far include George Bennett who rides for the UCI ProTour team RadioShack-Leopard, Olympic medallist Marc Ryan and former under 23 national road race champion and current national time trial champion Michael Vink. Hollander said he expected an influx of entries this week as entries must be in before the Tuesday prior to race day.
Previous winners of the series include Hayden Roulston, Gordon McCauley, Daniel Barry and Sam Horgan.