The New Zealand Cycle Classic will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in January 2017 with new stage routes for riders and an exciting line-up of community events that are part of Huri Huri: Wairarapa’s Festival of Cycling.

January may mean summer holidays for most people, but for Jorge Sandoval it represents the culmination of months of hard work. Weeks spent discussing traffic management plans, hours spent liaising with managers for some of the world’s top professional men’s cycle teams as well as time spent securing sponsors and gathering support - it all goes into organising the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned The New Zealand Cycle Classic, which celebrates 30 years in 2017.

“There’s a raft of logistics in running a top-notch cycle event,” admits Jorge, who is an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to cycling specialising in the promotion of cycling events. He is also the 2016 Supreme Winner of the Wairarapa sports awards as well as Administrator of the Year.

For the past 29 years, Jorge has been race director for the tour which attracts international and national elite men’s road cyclists to New Zealand for five days of fast and furious racing. The Chilean refugee, who landed in New Zealand in 1976, and cycled competitively before taking competitive cycling to the next level can’t quite believe the tour’s longevity. “When I started out, I never imagined I’d still be running it today,” he says. 

The tour started out in Wellington with stages raced through the central city, along Lambton Quay and on main roads linking Lower Hutt to Waikanae. Jorge has a photo of a large bunch ride hurtling down the Hutt motorway – routes that are near impossible to stage now due to strict traffic management plans, round-abouts and increased traffic.

For a time, the tour was jointly held in Wairarapa and Wellington, then moved to Manawatu, before returning to the region in 2016. This year’s event attracted a strong international field including The Kenyan Riders Downunder, England’s Rapha Condor JLT and the ONE Pro Cycling team, the first ever professional Continental road cycling team to come out of Britain. Twenty-year-old Australian Ben O’Connor, who made his debut with team Avanti IsoWhey Sports, claimed the yellow jersey and Jorge believes it’s only a matter of time before the young rider becomes a household name.

“This tour has become renowned for unearthing new talent or helping up-and-coming riders step onto a bigger platform. We’ve had the likes of Julian Dean, Chris Jenner, Robbie McEwen and Hayden Roulston all claim the yellow jersey while many others have gone on to ride in the Tour de France. For me that is very rewarding.”

Another highlight was when Australian rider Danny Clark, who was five times world champion at the time, contacted Jorge directly to be involved. 

“About 24 years ago, before internet and mobile phones were around, I came home to find a message on my answer machine saying it was Danny Clark and could he come and race in the tour. Well, I just stood there for about 15 minutes in a daze,I actually thought someone was playing a prank on me. But it was him and he did come out and was so professional, it was incredible.”

Jorge is excited about the 30th Anniversary and even more excited the entire tour will be staged in the Wairarapa. He has great respect for the NZ Police, volunteers, local councils and sponsors who support him and highly rates the region’s roads which offer a variety of terrain including long straight flats, rolling hills and steep climbs. 

To celebrate he has three new routes planned including a 156km stage which takes riders from Masterton to the spectacular coastal community of Castlepoint, “The Five Towns” which will see riders cycle through all five of the Wairarapa’s characterful townships and a fast 12 lap, 10km circuit just west of Masterton.

He’s also looking forward to working with Catherine Rossiter-Stead, the event manager for Huri Huri: Wairarapa Festival of Cycling held at the same time and designed to encourage community engagement and participation in cycling at all levels. The 2016 running of the festival saw dozens of kids participate in a mini criterium; seasoned mountain bikers tackle the Atiwhakatu TrailBlazer and weekend warriors tackle Gladstone’s challenging Admiral Hill in the Pedal for Parkinsons road race. 

This summer’s festival is looking just as exciting with a rare opportunity to explore historic Castlepoint Station by bike over Wellington Anniversary Weekend and the Town to Tide multisport event which includes a 44km cycle from Masterton to Whareama River, a 14km paddle on the river and a 16km run over farmland to the Riversdale surf lifesaving club. Other events include the Pedal for Parkinsons road race; a kids’ holiday cycling programme and an exciting new mountainbike event which will be unveiled later in the year.

The double-header of cycling events is also a great opportunity to generate national and international exposure for the whole Wairarapa region and encourage a lot of community involvement. 

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