There will be some strong Southland riders lining up when road cycling returns to the sporting calendar with around 600 riders set to compete in the Vantage Age Group Road Nationals in central Hawkes Bay this weekend.
The best young age-group riders from under-15 to senior and leading Masters over 75 years, will line up for the first national championships hosted by Cycling New Zealand post-Covid which has accordingly also attracted some stellar cyclists including Olympic and Paralympic track hopefuls, professional riders and world champions.
They will descend on the central Hawkes Bay town of Waipukurau for the three-day competition starting on Friday.
“We were forced to postpone the original April dates and we are delighted that the local club and organisers were so accommodating to host the championship nearly three months on,” said Cycling New Zealand Events Director, Janette Douglas.
“We are thrilled with both the number and quality of the entries which will ensure some cracking racing for cycling fans and the local community here which will no doubt be happy to have the town brim-full of visitors for the weekend.”
The young age groups are well represented by riders from the Cycling New Zealand Performance Hubs dotted throughout the country, while the Masters competitors include current track world champions Colin Claxton (Auckland, 70-74 years) and Penny Pawson (Auckland, 50-54 years).
Other former rainbow jersey winners include Waikato’s Jim McMurray (55-59 years) and Grant Tyrrell (Hamilton, 60-64 years); former Commonwealth Games medallists Tim Pawson (Auckland); former Coast to Coast elite champion Neil Jones (Whakatane) and Tasman’s Hans Bauer, father of professional star Jack Bauer.
The Vantage Elite Track riders have entered led by current Points world champion and SEG Racing Academy rider Corbin Strong (Southland) and teammates Aaron Gate, hometown star Regan Gough, Nick Kergozou (Southland), Campbell Stewart and Tom Sexton (Southland).
There is a healthy contingent from the Black Spoke professional team led by James Oram and another local Luke Mudgway, and other professionals waiting for the teams to reassemble in Joel Yates (Manawatu), Novo Nordisk team rider Hamish Beadle (Southland) and current Vantage national elite criterium champion Laurence Pithie.
The women’s field also has stern talent including well-known local Hawkes Bay professional Kirstie McCallum, World Tour professional Sharlotte Lucas and Paralympics New Zealand sighted pilot riders Hannah van Kampen (Hawkes Bay) and Nina Wollaston (Waikato).
Van Kampen will double up as pilot for multi-world champion and Paralympic medallist, Emma Foy while there will also be considerable interest in local Hawkes Bay pro mountain bike star, Brook MacDonald, who is making a return to two wheels after a serious accident during practice for the 2019 MTB world championships.
Competition begins with time trials from 8.30am on Friday and road races from 8am on Saturday and 8.30am on Sunday in Waipukurau.
Cycling Southland will be represented by Rhylee Akeroyd, Hamish Beadle, Kayne Borrie, Morgan Borrie, Mitchel Fitzsimons, Tyla Green, Hunter Gough, Reube Heslip, Hamish Keast, Caitlin Kelly, Nick Kergozou, Jaz McLeod, Lachlan Robertson, Tom Sexton, Conor Shearing, Ronan Shearing, Corbin Strong, and Bill Sutherland.