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Aussie Ace For Festival of Cycling

 
Aussie Ace For Festival of Cycling

One of Australia’s fastest rising road cycling stars is the latest signing for Christchurch’s Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling.

In just its fifth year Christchurch’s Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling continues on its quest to become New Zealand’s premier cycling event. Scheduled this year for December 5th and 6th, the latest to sign up is rising Aussie star Laura Luxford.

Luxford is fresh off a rapid rise on the Australian scene. After only a year in the sport the former gymnast and triathlete has established herself among Australia’s top 10 and comes to Christchurch looking for more experience and to take on New Zealand’s best.

The 23 year old has been in the sport for only a year, but comes with a long sporting pedigree. Her elder sister, Annabel Luxford, is ranked among the world’s top 10 triathletes and finished fifth in this year’s world championship. The younger Luxford has a pedigree of her own, as a former elite gymnast and then triathlete where she represented Australia in junior ranks. But gymnastics injuries hampered her running and swimming and after major shoulder and hip reconstructions, Luxford took to top level cycling last year and is already on the verge of making Australia’s much-vaunted academy of sports program.

Despite only a year in the sport, Luxford already has a close affinity with New Zealand cycling. She is coached by former Kiwi Olympian Blair Stockwell, who lives now in Brisbane. Earlier this year Stockwell brought a team of riders out to the 100k Le Race event from Christchurch to Akaroa, with Luxford finishing second behind compatriot and training partner Simone Grounds.  

The weekend long Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling is a celebration of the sport that allows recreational riders of all age and ability to rub shoulders with stars of the sport. Features include an 80k ride around the scenic but savage Lyttelton Harbour bays, a dedicated Kids event, and the popular City Criterium. This year also sees a new mountain bike event on the Port Hills.

Luxford is down to race both the 80k Avanti Long Bays Classic and the Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium. But she will face defending champion and Kiwi Olympian Catherine Cheatley. For advise on tactics Luxford might ask compatriot Ruth Corsey, who led for most of last year’s 80k race only to be caught by Cheatley in the final kilometre.

In 2008 the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling attracted a record 1700 riders from Australia, England, USA, France, Germany and all ends of New Zealand. The feature 80k Harbour Ride and Long Bays Classic is based at McCormack's Bay in Redcliffs, with the route taking in Cashmere, Halswell and Motukarara before climbing over Gebbies Pass and around the undulating Lyttelton bays, over Evans Pass to finish back at McCormack’s Bay.

Other highlights on day one include the Benchmark Homes Kids’ Mini-Bays and the new 35k mountain bike event around the Port Hills, both of which also start and finish at McCormack’s Bay.

Day two’s Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium will bring a taste of European cycling to Christchurch with exciting multi-lap racing around the inner city’s Oxford Terrace café strip. Last year saw close to 10,000 spectators watching New Zealand’s best and organisers hope many will bring their bikes this year to take part in new events such as the Rookie Criterium and Kids Criterium. An annual highlight is the Armstrong Motor Group Celebrity Tandem charity race organised in conjunction with the Harcourts Foundation.

Entries for the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of cycling are open now. For more details: www.festivalofcycling.co.nz

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