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Record Entries For Cycling Festival

Record Entries For Cycling Festival

With New Zealand titles at stake and a record numbers of entries, the 2008 Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling is shaping up as the biggest and best yet.

In just four years Christchurch’s Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling has become one of New Zealand’s premier cycling events. A record 1600 entries have been received for this year’s event, which will be held over this Saturday and Sunday, and with the national road cycling series and New Zealand Criterium title at stake, New Zealand’s best riders will be in the Garden City.

The festival kicks off on Saturday at McCormacks Bay Reserve in Redcliffs with the 80k Armstrong Peugeot Harbour Ride, the Avanti Long Bays Classic and the SBS Kid’s MiniBays. The Harbour Ride is open to riders of all age and ability, while the Long Bays Classic is an elite-only affair with New Zealand’s best cyclists racing for points in the BikeNZ National Road Series. But both elite and allcomers will ride the same course around the base of the Port Hills around to Motukarara and over Gebbies Pass to Lyttelton Harbour before returning via Evans Pass and Sumner.

NZ Road Series
Among the starters are double Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston and the New Zealand Olympic bronze medal team pursuit squad. But they will also face stiff competition from a who’s-who of the sport in New Zealand.

Former world junior champion Jeremy Yates will be keen to hang on to his lead in the national series. Yates has been in superb form this year, winning the national club title, Coromandel’s 200k K2 Classic and the King of the Mountain title at the Tour of Southland.

The Hawke’s Bay builder will lead the strong Subway Avanti team, who recently became the first Kiwi cycling team to be granted Union of Cycling International (UCI) status on the international circuit. Among his teammates is Wellingtonian Joe Chapman, who won last year’s Long Bays Classic with help from Yates.

New Zealand’s newest cycling team, Enterprise Cycling, will also be on the start line. It includes young talent such as former world junior rep Elliot Crowther and current New Zealand under-23 pro champion Thomas Hanover. But there will be interest in the performance of import, Andi Bajc, who represented his Slovenian home country in this year’s world championship in Italy.

Other standouts include World track champion Hayden Godfrey and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Gordon McCauley. But 2006 Avanti Long Bays winner and Olympic silver medallist Hayden Roulston is the hot favourite, provided he can shake off jetlag.

Roulston is due home the day before the race after a training camp with his new professional squad, the Cervelo Test Team, which includes current Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre.

NZ Criterium Champs
After such a good year on the track, Roulston could be considered an even hotter favourite for Sunday’s Armstrong Peugeot City Criterium, which this year hosts the BikeNZ New Zealand Criterium Championship.

Two years ago Roulston helped his Olympic teammate, Mark Ryan, win the national title in this race and Ryan will no doubt try and return the favour. Ryan was part of the Beijing Olympic bronze medal team pursuit squad, all of whom are in Christchurch for the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling and their first post-Olympic squad camp.

The Olympic pursuit squad will be well suited to the tight Oxford Terrace Criterium circuit, but Peter Latham, Hayden Godfrey and defending national Criterium champion Gordon McCauley will be keen to upset the Olympic stars.

McCauley has also enjoyed good recent form, finishing second to Roulston in the Tour of Southland. Godfrey won the world Omnium title on the track earlier this year and is a Criterium specialist with several national titles to his credit, while former world top 10 Peter Latham has put an injury-affected year behind him with a win in last weekend’s Round Taupo race.

Fast Women
The women’s racing for this year’s Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling threatens to steal the thunder from the men with a super-strong line up of Commonwealth Games medallists, Olympians and national champions, but no clear favourites.

In the Avanti Long Bays Classic, Nelson’s Serena Sheridan has been the form road rider of late and will be keen to maintain her lead in the national series. Sheridan won the national club title and the Coromandel K1 Classic and can once again expect to be assisted by club mate Jeannie Kahujek.

Sheridan, however, will face tough competition from Beijing Olympians Alison Shanks and Catherine Cheatley, former national champion Kaytee Boyd, German pro Britta Martin, and 19 year old Wellington rider Rachel Mercer, who was ranked in the world’s top 10 juniors in 2007 and recently signed a pro contract in Belgium.

If the women’s field stays together on the big climbs over Gebbies Pass and Evans Pass the race will come down to a sprint, which could favour Olympic pursuit fourth placegetter Shanks. But Sheridan, a very good climber, is unlikely to let that happen.

Alison Shanks and Catherine Cheatley will be more in their element on Sunday in the Armstrong Peugeot City Criterium. Shanks and Cheatley will be at home on the multi-lap circuit around Christchurch’s café district, but so too will Auckland Criterium specialists Malindi McLean and Marina Duvnjak. Duvjnak is a former national champion and McLean is the defending criterium champion. Both riders are part of the Jazz Apple pro squad that competes on the American circuit. Last year this squad dominated the Armstrong Peugeot City Criterium and launched McLean, a former world junior champion on the track, to an exciting win. This year they will be an even stronger unit with McLean, Shanks and support riders such as former national club champion Ruth Corset and former Commonwealth Games medallist Susie Pryde, who manages and rides for the team.

Something for Everyone
Amid all the world class racing, the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling is a fun-filled weekend of riding for all age and ability. New features for 2008 include the SPARC Para-Cycling categories, which will feature Paralympic gold medallist Paula Tesoriero and former world paracycling world champion Paul Jesson.

But watchout as well for new cult cycling categories such as single speed, retro and recumbents, and fun categories such as the Clydesdale section for 100kg-plus, the New Mothers category, and the SBS Kids’ Mini-Bays,

Entries are still open for the 2008 Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling. For more information see: www.festivalofcycling.co.nz.


ENDS

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