23rd-27th February 2011
It’s race time again! Just about all the Aussie riders in the peloton, and occasionally other names familiar from the European circuit have been racing the Australian summer circuit in recent months, but now the UCI racing programme kicks off properly with a little en-route stop off for one of the prettiest races of the year, the NZ Community Trust Women’s Tour of New Zealand. That’s six stages over five days, including point-to point, cross-country stages and a couple of criteriums.
Interestingly there doesn’t seem to be seem to one obvious way to win this race. Classic stage racers like Judith Arndt and Kristin Armstrong have won here in the past, but last year the US National squad got their sprinter Shelley Olds, and two years ago unknown rookie Amber Halliday vanished up the road, then hung on to her lead to the end of the race. Read on for more on this year's race
The race starts off in Martinborough in the heart of NZ wine country. Stage 1 is a classic road stage, taking the quiet route through the countryside to Masterton, and passing over Te Kaurarau hill. Reading the profile and route-book together, that is meant to be 300m of vertical ascent in about 1.5km, which sounds unlikely. Let’s just call it short and sharp, if little too far from the finish to make a decisive impact on the race. Stage 2 from Masterton to Palmerston North is more of a race-maker. The climb to Pahiatua at 97km is not particularly steep, but the 17km from there to the finish line are just about all downhill.
Stage 3 stays in Palmerston North for a fairly flat and shortish course of 87km based around three laps of a loop almost 20km long, and the most notable feature is the phrase in the routebook describing a point just 3km from the finish line "CAUTION – Major Intersection" I hope that the roads are closed. And if 87km seems a little short, that’s because Friday has a second stage, a one hour plus 3 laps criterium raced around a square beside Main Street in the centre of Palmerston North.
Stage 5 returns to Masterton along the same route covered in Stage 2, but in reverse so the climb to Pahiatua comes at the start of the day, and any break will probably have been neutralised by the sprinters’ teams by the end of the day. Then the Tour finishes mid-day Sunday with another 1 hour plus 3 laps criterium, this time in the centre of Wellington.
There is a start list up, and as the start-line is at least one long flight for most of the women, then it’s likely to be pretty accurate. The big teams that have made the trip are Diadora-Pasta Zara, led by last year’s winnning rider and DS in Shelley Olds and Manel Lacambra (the video posted at the top was taken by Manel last year, and he has posted plenty more on You Tube ). Amber Neben who briefly wore the leader’s jersey last year is back with HTC, riding alongside Judith Arndt and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. The best local hopes, Catherine Cheatley and Linda Villumsen, are riding for the NZ National team, while the Australian Institute of Sport has managed to sneak in two teams in Team Jayco – AIS and Jayco/VIS. The former includes riders such as Ruth Corset, Shara Gillow and Amanda Spratt that are, as Miffy Galloway told us, due to ride in the AIS European squad later this summer, while the latter includes top bloggers Lisa Jacobs and Bridie O’Donnell. Miffy herself is there as part of the TDT RACE – Australia team, alongside the race’s sole French entrant Delphine Astier . And if the English want a home rider to cheer on, then there are two on the start-line: probably really an emigrant Aimee Burns, and ex-Rapha Condor and travelling blogger Emma Grant.
If you want more details then you can download the Race programme as a pdf from here. As for media coverage, well it’s one of those races where we rely on the riders to come up with the goods. Manel Lacambra and Ina Teutenberg are usually pretty prompt to give out the results on Twitter, and we will doubtless find others as the race goes on. Oli Brooke-White who works as a race mechanic comes up with lots of nice photos, even if he’s not the quickest to get his reports up. As ever, if you find something good then please share it with us. And be ready this weekend for our first WVDS update made up from the results from here and Het Nieuwsblad.