Uncrowded, green and peaceful New Zealand offers spectacular mountains, warm weather and tough racing. It is an ideal place for JLT Condor to begin their 2017 stage race campaign.
The New Zealand Cycles Classic (January 22-26) boasts the most competitive field of recent years with Olympic gold medallists Ed Clancy (JLT Condor) and New Zealander Hamish Bond (Blindz Direct-Swift Carbon) on the start sheet, along with Pro Continental squad, Novo Nordisk and Australia’s IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness.
Previously known as the Tour of Wellington, the Classic has run continuously for twenty nine years. Previous winners include Tour de France green jersey winner, Robbie McEwen and World Tour talents Julian Dean, Nathan Earle and recent top ten Vuelta finisher, George Bennett.
There is no warm up sprint stage in this years edition, instead a lumpy 121km to cover travelling east from Masterton to the coastal town of Castleton.
Stage two finishes with a 10km ascent of Admiral Hill where it is likely yellow jersey will be won or lost.
Stage three, four and five are flatter and predicted to end with bunch sprints where JLT Condor’s Alex Frame will be looking for podium finishes in front of his home crowd.
Pressure will be on the yellow jersey wearer to defend their lead on the final three days, presenting interesting dynamics explains John Herety, “It can be draining, watching every move, making calculations on the bike about time gaps. Everyone will look to the leading team to chase down attacks which ultimately will wear their legs out. Rather than the efforts its the pressure of it all that will cause cracks to appear.”
“Locals are suggesting stage one will be where the yellow jersey will be won or lost. Coastal winds and a climb around 5km before the finish is where an attack could go and time gained over rivals.” – says manager, John Herety.
The final day of the race is a crowd pleasing sprint stage with the peloton lapping the town of Masterton. The the circuit is bigger than those in a Tour Series criterium, but Ed Clancy, Alex Frame and Jon Mould have proven they work well together on tight twisty courses and have ear marked the final day.
Follow the race
For those in the northern hemisphere stages will finish in the early hours between 1am and 2am (GMT). The racing at local time will begin at 10.00am and predicted to finish at 1.30pm.
Team and race numbers
36. Alex Frame
37. Steve Lampier
39. Jon Mould
40.0 Ed Clancy, MBE
The team have raced the New Zealand Classic twice before with Steve Lampier finishing in the top five overall and young rider, Stevie Williams taking third. Alex Frame led Chris Lawless to a sprint stage win in 2016.