Organisers of the New Zealand leg of the Women's Cycling World Cup have received a welcome Christmas present, with the first big name confirmed for next year's race in Wellington on March 5. Swedish rider Susanne Ljungskog is returning for both the World Cup race, and the preceding Trust House Women's Tour of New Zealand - a three-day tour around the Wellington region from March 1-3.
Race director Jorge Sandoval is happy to have confirmation of Ljungskog's entry, as the 29 year-old is a former world champion and currently placed second on the UCI rankings. "She really enjoyed her time here this year, and I'm sure that's why she's coming back," Sandoval said. "Her Dutch team is not coming because of budget constraints, but she still has her reasons to come as an individual. It may be she wants the training, or maybe she thinks she can win this race. She will certainly be a good chance."
When Ljungskog raced in the inaugural Wellington World Cup event this year she finished seventh. But she went on to finished second in the overall World Cup standings, and placed seventh at the world championships in Madrid. The Wellington race is the second of eight legs in the UCI's World Cup series, with the first leg held a week earlier in Geelong, Australia.
Sandoval said there is likely to be a strong international flavour to next year's event, with riders from as many as 24 countries expected to enter. He hopes to be able to confirm more big names in early January.