The women's professional peloton is now heading to Wellington, New Zealand. The Women's Tour of New Zealand will start on Wednesday, the 27th of February and run until March 2.
Most of the riders have already arrived, some of them coming straight from the World Cup in Geelong. The Webcor Builder Team with World Cup winner Katheryn Mattis was scheduled to arrive today, 15:15 local time at the Wellington International airport.
Third-placed Ina-Yoko Teutenberg will be there with a strong selection of the women's High Road team. Cyclingnews diarist Judith Arndt and Australian Oenone Wood will be there to try to continue their domination that they showed in the Geelong Tour, taking two of the three stages.
Austrian Christiane Söder has to be one of the favourites, having won the Geelong Tour recently, thanks to her dominance in the time trial. Lithuanian Edita Pucinskaite, who won the Giro d'Italia last year, will look to use the race to get her in shape for the later season highlights. But you can never count her out, even in February.
Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog, (Menikini - Selle Italia) is a two-time World Champion (2002 and 2003), who returns to New Zealand for the fourth year running. Ljungskog won last year's Tour de l'Aude in France. The stellar line up of talent also includes reigning Olympic Champion Sara Carrigan, who will race in the Lotto-Belisol Ladies Team.
2006 time trial World Champion and three times US Champion Kristin Armstrong and 2004/2005 time trial World Champion Karin Thürig, from Switzerland, will line up with New Zealand's number one rider, Joanne Kiesanowski, for the Cervelo-Lifeforce team.
Number one pro team Webcor Builders Team from the United States is sending a strong team, including Canada's reigning road and time trial Champion Gina Grain, 2006 dual Canadian Champion Alex Wrubleski and 2006 World Championship bronze medallist, American Christine Thorburn.
Team Vrienden Van Het Platteland from the Netherlands is bringing top American road rider Tina Mayolo Pic, Dutch rider Cacolien Wallaard and top Australian professionals Lorian Graham and Nikki Egyed.
The locals will look to New Zealander Carissa Wilkes, who finished 17th in the World Cup race on Sunday.
The presentation of the teams will take place Wednesday at 11:00, at the Lower Hutt theatre. The race will get underway at 14:30, with a circuit race around Fraser Park in Lower Hutt. On Thursday stage two takes the riders from Martinborough to Masterton and on Friday riders complete the toughest stage in the tour, a 125-kilometre run around the Wairarapa, including four major climbs and finishing with a 12-kilometre hill climb to the top of Admiral hill.
The tour heads to Wellington on Saturday with a 124-kilometre stage around the Miramar Peninsular and finishes on Sunday with the Wellington criterium around Lambton Quay. The final stage start at 15:00.