Entries for the unique 120km Milford Mountain Classic road cycle race and the shorter 57km Eglinton Challenge – scheduled for January 11, 2012 – are now open online and organisers are expecting a mix of elite and recreational cyclists to take on the challenging route from Milford to Te Anau.
Competitors who enter by September 9 will also be rewarded with a discounted entry fee.
After a false start last year the event was pulled, due to low confirmed numbers. However, Sport Southland event manager Matt Sillars is confident the January 2012 edition, which will see participants cycle over some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, will be a very different story.
“We have been strongly encouraged by ongoing interest, entrants from last year who have left their entries with us, the retained commitment of sponsors and funders and by the opportunities the event presents,” he said.
Naming Rights sponsors the Distinction Hotels Group, the Community Trust of Southland, the Meridian Community Fund, Southern Discoveries, the Southern Trust, the Fiordland Lobster Company, Fiordland Helicopters and Real Journeys are among those who have opted to stay on board as sponsors.
Says Sillars: “This is a unique race, which goes through a World Heritage area – it’s iconic. And in terms of the cycling, the climb is as close as you will get in Australasia to a European alpine-style climb.”
The event is set to be the only mass-participation race of its kind in the southern South Island and Sillars is confident it will become an increasingly popular annual fixture, added to the ‘must-do’ lists of New Zealand road cyclists.
Scenery aside, the Milford Mountain Classic does offer a strong challenge, with an initial difficult climb from Milford to the Homer Tunnel, and another climb up to the Divide.
Thus, different options are on offer: individual entry, a two-person team section, and the shorter Eglinton Challenge.
The timing of the race coincides with Bike NZ’s RaboDirect elite national road cycling championships in Christchurch, being held on January 6 to 8, and also offers competitors in late January’s Challenge Wanaka iron-distance triathlon a solid cycling hit out.
The logistics of the race set-up – already prepared last year – will carry through to January’s Milford Mountain Classic, with a start time of 4.15pm scheduled to avoid significant disruption to tourism traffic.
The event is run as a joint venture between Fiordland College (who came up with the initial concept), the Te Anau Project Group – a sub-committee of Destination Fiordland –, Cycling Southland and Sport Southland, as a fundraiser for Fiordland College and the wider Te Anau community.
For more information or to enter go online to www.milfordclassic.co.nz.