This year’s Calder Stewart Cycling Series kicks off on Sunday with the toughest course riders will face with a number of cyclists across the elite, masters and women’s fields all capable of adding their names to a prestigious list of previous winners.
The Kings Electrical Hanmer to Kaikoura Classic sees riders in the elite men’s and masters events take on 123 kilometres of tough hill climbs and undulating terrain while the women race 94 kilometres. Previous winners reads like a who’s who of New Zealand cycling with names like Hayden Roulston, Brian Fowler, Gordon McCauley and current track world champion in the teams pursuit Dylan Kennett all claiming past line hours.
“There’s no doubt it takes a good rider to win on that course,” 2013 elite winner Tom Hubbard said. “I’m really happy to see the route back on the programme as it’s the best course in the series and it’s the hardest one to win.”
Hubbard will be one of the favourites to repeat his 2013 winning effort but says much will depend on how he is feeling on the day after taking a break from training and racing after riding for Australian Continental team Data#3 Cisco Racing in Australia’s Herald Sun Tour that was won by current Tour de France Champion Chris Froome and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race that featured a number of WorldTour pro teams.
“I am looking forward to riding with some of my mates and a couple of younger guys in the TotalPOS team,” he said. “I’m keen to pass on some of my experience and get some good racing in as I’m building again to head off to Asia and then Europe to race in April through to June with my Data#3 Cisco team.”
Last year’s elite series winner Sam Horgan says his form is also ‘pretty unknown at the moment,’ after adjusting to a new job that has seen less time on the bike.
Horgan has mixed riding for Australian Continental team Budget Forklifts and New Zealand trade team Mike Greer Homes Racing for the last two seasons, but is reassessing his racing future after Budget Forklifts folded at the end of last season.
“I've been doing a lot more work than riding lately,” Horgan, who has won the series three times, said. “I don't have any personal ambitions for the series this year so my biggest goals are to help someone like Tim Rush, Dan Barry or Ben Johnson get up for the series or round wins as they all have the ability and talent to do well.”
Horgan said he was looking forward to racing on the tough course though, as it was a ‘fantastic road both in terms of scenery and challenging terrain.’
The elite race will be interesting tactically with six teams lining up with a number of strong riders all capable of winning. Hubbard along with his Total POS teammates Reon Park, who returns to the elite field after racing in the master’s competition, Reon Nolan and Richard Lawson, Modus Construct’s Max Jones, Jake Marryatt and Adam Bull and Joe and Anthony Chapman from L&M Group Ricoh NZ, should all feature.
Last year’s women’s series winner Sharlotte Lucas (Benchmark Homes) is another leading rider been who has slowly been finding some form following a break after a period of intense racing that included a bronze medal time trial effort at the Big Save elite road national championships and racing in the Santos Women's Tour in Adelaide last month.
Lucas said her Benchmark team was ‘looking good with some young guns’ and was keen to support her and team mate Elyse Fraser to secure a good start to this years six race series.
“The course should be a good challenge and the hill finish will find the strongest rider,” Lucas said. “The programme really lacked hard finishes last year so this is a good start.”
Nelson’s Karen Fulton (Freshchoice Richmond/Pomeroys) will be keen to start this year’s series as she ended last year, with a win. The experienced forty five year old is in good form having won the Nelson’s Tasman Wheelers women’s championships road race on Saturday.
The Black Magic team will again field two teams in this year’s series, with last year’s series runner up and Under 19 winner Amanda Jamieson being joined again by Maddi Campbell and Mikayla Harvey who are all expected to make their presence felt.
Riding for the Black Magic Pink team Manawatu's Michaela Drummond will be wearing her world champion’s jersey she won on the track as part of the New Zealand team that won gold in the 4000m women's team pursuit at the junior world championships in Kazakhstan in August, where they set a world-record time.
Jeannie Kuhajek (Freshchoice Richmond Pomeroys), and Vidasana Thule’s Jeannie Blakemore and the vastly experienced Tracy Clark are other women to watch.
The masters racing over three age group classifications features a number of New Zealand’s strongest masters riders, including Dave Rowlands (Christchurch Mitsubishi), who won the elite series of the Trust House North Island Team series late last year, and last year’s age classification series winners, Darrell Kircher (Mitsubishi Motors) the 45 to 49 series winner and Cycle World Red’s Chris Harvey, who won the over 50’s classification.
Rowlands will be heavily marked on Sunday but has proven more than capable of riding away from strong fields, as he has did on this route two years ago, winning in just over three hours dropping Reon Park on the final climb to claim the masters win.
The master’s field is the largest, with almost 80 riders entered across 14 teams, with the strong looking Champion System team that features current national age group club champions Brendan McGrath, who won the Trust House North Island Team series masters competition, and Yancey Arrington, John Randall, who was second in the masters North Island Team series and former series masters overall winner Scott McDonnell and 2014 45 to 49 series winner, Lee Johnstone, looking likely to dominate.
There will be interest to see who has early series form with the likes of Glenn Rewi (Christchurch Mitsubishi), who won the masters race on this route three years ago, Champion System’s Mike Sleeman, Geoff Keogh (Armstrong Prestige Dunedin), Scott Wilder (Kiwi Style Bike Tours), Matt Talbot (Thule Cycling), Dean Fulton (Freshchoice Richmond Pomeroys), Glenn Gould (Cycle World Red), Blair Stuthridge (Protocol Mackleys), Tony Gibson (Warmup Cycling) and Ron Pithie (Armitage Williams 50+) all capable of having an impact on the race.
08:30 Registration. Team Managers collect team packs
09:30 Team Managers / Convoy Drivers meeting with Chief Commissaire/Race Director
09:55 Race Briefing on Start/Finish Line
10:00 Race Start Elite Men
10:00 Race Start Masters
11:30 Race Start Women
Estimated Finish Times
13:35 Elite Men
15:00 Prize giving