The 2006 Trust House Women's Cycle Tour of New Zealand, scheduled from March 1-3, will not only provide the ideal build-up for riders in the Wellington leg of the UCI World Cup (March 5), it will also be a spectacular event in its own right. The tour will take the riders on a challenging three-day, four-stage tour around Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Wellington.
Race director Jorge Sandoval said this year's course will be the toughest yet, as organisers are sending the field up the steepest hill climb in the Wairarapa - Te Wharau hill - previously used only by their male counterparts. "We didn't want to make it too hard last year because it's early in the season and the riders are not race fit," Sandoval said. "But some of the Russian team said to me last year that it was too easy - they wanted it to be more challenging. And believe me, it will be this year. The stage up Te Wharau hill is the same one we used in the men’s tour earlier in January. It will be hard on their legs, because it's on just the second day of racing."
Day one will see a 45 km criterium around the streets of Hutt City. On day two, riders will complete a 99 km stage from Martinborough to Masterton, and then a 30 km criterium around the Masterton CBD. And on day three, riders will compete in a 12 km Individual Time Trial around Wellington's Miramar Peninsular. "Televised both nationally and internationally, it will provide a unique showcase for the Wellington and Wairarapa regions," Sandoval continued.
Top field for Wellington World Cup
The second edition of the UCI Women’s Road Cycling World Cup, straight after the Trust House tour, also promises some excellent racing: On March 5, 2006, a star-studded field including 11 riders ranked in the top 21 in the world will line up in Wellington. Three teams of New Zealand's best road riders, including Olympic track champion Sarah Ulmer, will be participating, with many of the outfits in the final stages of their preparation for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games starting on March 15.
The top three road riders in the current UCI world rankings are all confirmed starters for both events - Australia's Oenone Wood, Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog and Germany's Judith Arndt. "To have the top three riders in the world racing here, as well as the four top professional teams in the world is beyond everything we hoped," said Sandoval. "We will have riders from the top 16 cycling nations in the world. The only thing I can compare that to is New Zealand hosting a soccer World Cup. This is that big."
In the Wellington race, the second in the UCI series, the riders will contest 20 laps of a tough 6.5 km circuit. They start and finish in the grounds of parliament and wind their way through the central business district for 3.5 hours, including a tough climb up Boulcott Street and a thrilling descent down The Terrace.
Prior to the Wellington round, the riders will tomorrow contest the opening round of the Women's World Cup in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, where once again Oenone Wood is tipped as the favourite.