Chris Jenner will not be able to participate in this month's Trust House Cycle Classic. New Zealand's only Tour de France stage winner phoned tour director Jorge Sandoval from his New Caledonia home yesterday with the bombshell.
The 30 year-old is training to become a steward for Air Caledonia and only learned yesterday that the final 60 hours of on-the-job training begins during the January 26-30 tour. The Trust House-sponsored race was to be Jenner's Farewell from professional cycling and Sandoval had lured a star-studded team to Wellington in an effort to give the former Upper Hutt rider a winning sendoff.
Jenner apologised to Sandoval for his late withdrawal. "When I started racing at 15, Jorge was organising the Wellington Tour and I was keen to finish in his race," he said. "So it's a big let down for both of us. But cycling's not going to be there for ever so I think he sort of understands. I'm pretty upset because my big plan was to try and win this last race. I'd been training pretty hard for it because my last race was in September." Jenner said there was a chance he could come out of retirement to race the 2006 Wairarapa-Wellington Classic.
Meanwhile, race director Sandoval has lost his headline act for the five-day, 515km classic. "It's frustrating because you try to put events together and you rely on people," he said. "It's especially disappointing because Chris approached me to put a team together. Unfortunately, that's the end of his career."
Sandoval is talking to contacts in Australia in the hope of finding a high-profile replacement for Jenner, who helped the Credit Agricole team win the teams time trial stage in the 2001 Tour de France. "It's unfortunate but these things happen. We'll try and get a top Australian rider. It'll still be a good event," he said.
The International Cycling Union sanctioned-tour begins with the traditional 45 km Avalon criterium and finishes six stages and five days later with another circuit stage in Petone. Sponsored by Trust House, the classic also includes a new 158.5 km return loop from Masterton to Pahiatua via Eketahuna on January 28. It is the first leg of a big summer of cycling organised by Sandoval, with a 120km women's World Cup race confirmed for central Wellington on March 6. The World Cup follows a three-day women's tour, taking in stages in Avalon, Wairarapa and Wellington from March 2-4.