New Zealand’s cycle-friendly landscapes have attracted a strong international contingent of cyclists for an ambitious eight-day cycling adventure that sets off on 20 April.
Tour of New Zealand, which travels the length of New Zealand, is designed to appeal to cyclists of all abilities - from serious competitors in for the race to social cyclists on a leisurely tour. Participants ride as individuals or in teams.
Director Peter Yarrell says that entries for the 2013 edition include more than 30 overseas competitors from Australia, Hong Kong, Texas, the UK, Russia and Japan. About 220 cyclists will be on the start line for Stage One.
Unique cycling event
Inaugurated in 2012, Tour of New Zealand offers a new take on cycling events as it is more about the journey than the race. It passes through some of New Zealand’s outstanding landscapes and offers contestants the opportunity to ride at their own level.
Teams or individuals can choose to ride through either the North or South Island and, on the final day, all the competitors arrive at the mid-point in Wellington to race through the grounds of New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings.
The race starts simultaneously at both ends of New Zealand. North Island cyclists begin at Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island while South Island cyclists set off from Bluff following a 700km route to Wellington.
The tour is promoted as “the most visually dramatic, accessible multi-day cycling stage race ever held in New Zealand” and each itinerary offers different highlights and varied experiences, Yarrell says.
Travelling some of New Zealand’s best country roads, the tour will pass through the South Island’s alpine resorts of Queenstown, Wanaka and Lake Tekapo, and the central North Island’s distinctive Waitomo limestone country, active volcanic and world heritage conservation areas.
Cyclists on the North Island itinerary would begin their journey with a traditional Maori farewell at the famed lighthouse at Cape Reinga - a sacred spot in Maori tradition - while the South Island contingent would receive a send-off from “Invercargill’s inimitable Mayor Tim Shadbolt”.
On Anzac Day (25 April) riders will have the opportunity to join dawn services commemorating past sacrifices of the NZ Armed Forces - at National Park (North Island) and Hanmer Springs (South Island) - before setting off on the day’s ride.
Riders completing all seven stages will each carry a pebble taken from the southernmost point of New Zealand to the finish in Wellington, where the pebbles will be combined with sand from the north as a symbolic presentation.
Celebration of New Zealand
Yarrell sees the tour as “a celebration - not only of cycling, but of all New Zealand has to offer.
The routes take riders through a range of New Zealand scenery, stopping at iconic spots and country towns for off-road diversions.
In the South Island, cyclists will pedal past mountains and farmland, conquer high country passes, glimpsing the iridescent blues of the Southern Lakes in the daytime and the dark skies above at night. The North Island route swoops through ancient kauri forests, beside northern beaches, across the volcanic heartland, and the Whanganui River via kilometres of remote native bush.
The race timetable allows for three to six hours cycling each morning with free time in the afternoons and evenings for exploring the destinations, meeting the locals and enjoying the Kiwi hospitality experience.
On the eighth day, the riders will meet for a head-to-head criterium in the grounds of Wellington’s iconic Beehive to decide the winners in each category. This final blast around the 1.5km criterium course will start and finish on the steps of Parliament.
The entrants represent a wide variety of cyclists, and Yarrell says that the event is not only about speed and competition.
Individual participants are only required to do one stage to be part of the event. They can also choose whether to speed with the serious racers or dawdle their way checking out “the amazing backdrops.”
Teams must field up to five cyclists on each stage but substitute riders are permitted at any stage as the goal is to get the team colours to Wellington.
Each day there will be $1000-worth of spot prizes distributed.
Participants will have the opportunity to raise funds through sponsorship for their chosen charities while school teams will raise money for their school sports programmes. Charities supported by Tour riders include the Heart Foundation, St Johns Ambulance Services, Halberg Disability Trust and the Hikurangi Foundation for the ‘Bikes in School’ programme.
The 2012 tour riders raised NZ$75,000 for charity.
Tour of New Zealand is now a biennial event. New routes will be introduced for the 2015 edition.