New Zealand road cycling champion James Williamson will lead the NZCT New Zealand team in the NZCT Cycle Classic Tour of Manawatu from January 23 to 27.
The 23-year-old from Alexandra is the class act in a squad which tour director Jorge Sandoval believes contains several of the country’s most promising road riders for New Zealand’s only event on the UCI calendar.
Williamson experienced a frustrating few months last year as a member of the Pure Black team before his career received a welcome boost with the offer to sign for British team Node 4 for 2013. Williamson has also been named NZ under-23 champion twice, and competed at numerous world championships.
“James is a very classic rider,” says Sandoval. “He took the yellow jersey in the Cycle Classic a couple of years ago in the stage up the Rimutakas. He showed his class that day, and I am sure he will come to the tour in pretty good shape.”
To assist his preparation, Williamson will race to defend his national road title in Christchurch’s Cashmere Hills on Sunday January 13. Williamson is a versatile rider who is strong on the hills, and fast in a sprint finish.
Lining up with Williamson will be 2011 Cycle Classic winner Michael Torckler – a feat which seemed almost impossible after he suffered severe injuries on a training ride in California in June last year. Torckler was run over in a hit-and-run incident, leaving him with 20 facial fractures and a broken arm.
“Mine and the hearts of many other cycling fans started pumping fast when we heard what had happened to Mike,” says Sandoval. “The speed of his recovery has amazed his doctors. Twelve days afterwards, he went home, and a month later he was back riding on an indoor bike.
“As a former tour winner and a friend, I’m really pleased to see him racing again in the classic. Mike is a fantastic hill-climber. This year’s stage four to the finish at the top of the Saddle Road by Meridian Te Apiti Wind Farm will suit him down to the ground,” says Sandoval.
26-year-old Torckler of Taranaki will continue with the American Team Bissell this year. The team will also be supplying a second Kiwi professional to the national team, Patrick Bevin. With 10 wins on the US professional circuit last year, Bevin brings a wealth of experience to the Classic and is expected to excel over the rolling Manawatu terrain.
Reon Nolan of Christchurch and seasoned European campaigner Ryan Wills complete the team. Wills has ridden for Belgium team Lotto Bodysoul, and in New Zealand for Subway. Both riders are strong sprinters and are the ideal lead out men for teammate Bevin.
This is the NZCT tour’s second year based entirely in the Manawatu. Sandoval anticipates this month’s event will produce some exceptional racing between the national squad and the five Australian professional teams.
For further information contact race director Jorge Sandoval on 0274 464 300 or visit the event website www.cycletournz.com.