New Zealand's national men's road cycling team has been awarded a slot at the 2007 Tour Down Under, making it the first non-Australian national team to receive an invite to the prestigious event. "A start in the Tour Down Under is some of the best news New Zealand cycling has received," explained BikeNZ high-performance director Michael Flynn. "It is the most important road race in this part of the world and to be allowed to start New Zealand's national team is a great honour."
Speaking of the announcement South Australia's Tourism Minister Dr Jane Lomax-Smith said: "This gives us an opportunity to showcase the best of South Australia to people who travel from New Zealand to watch the event as well as those who watch from their lounge-rooms." The Tour's growing profile has resulted in 15,330 event specific international and national visitors attending the 2006 event, generating an economic benefit to the State of at least $16.25m," added Dr Smith.
While the NZ team's coach Jacques Landry dubbed the announcement as "an amazing coup," Flynn also suggested: "With the recent pro signings of Tim Gudsell and Greg Henderson this will further exhibit to young athletes that with a great deal of hard work there are very real rewards to be gained."
The announcement is yet another boost for the event which last week revealed SA's Stuart O'Grady would take part in his home event, which commences on January 16.