Christchurch, New Zealand's inaugural Armstrong Prestige Festival of Cycling will feature World Champions Greg Henderson and Katie Mactier at the two day event on December 3 and 4. Henderson, from Dunedin, is a three-time Olympian and Commonwealth and World champion. Australian Katie Mactier is a current World Champion and Olympic silver medallist on the track. Both riders are using the Armstrong Prestige Festival of Cycling as a major part of their build up for the Melbourne's Commonwealth Games in March.
"The race comes at a good time for both of us," says Henderson. "It will serve as a good test of form and fitness leading into our Commonwealth Games campaign."
While track specialists, both Henderson and Mactier are experienced on the road. Henderson rides professionally for U.S.A's top-ranked HealthNet team. In 2004 he won the prestigious New York Criterium. In 2005 he won the points competition in the Tour of Georgia, which was won overall by Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong. Although a Dunedinite by birth, Henderson has an affinity with Christchurch. Three of his 17 national titles were won in the Garden City and he is keen to return for this new event.
Australia's Katie Mactier is known to New Zealanders for her silver medal ride behind golden girl Sarah Ulmer at the Athens Olympics. In 2005 Mactier went on to win the world title and will use the Armstrong Prestige Festival of Cycling as a strength building exercise for her Commonwealth Games hopes on the track.
On Saturday, December 3, the weekend opens with the 75km Armstrong Prestige Harbour Ride. From the start at Centennial Park (Pioneer Stadium), participants take in the foothills around Halswell and Taitapu Road to Motukarara before heading over Gebbies Pass. The course then undulates through Lyttleton Harbour's northern bays before climbing over Evans Pass. A final stretch through Sumner and back around the foothills brings the ride back to Centennial Park for the finish.
On Sunday December 4 the Festival continues with a taste of cycling Euro-style with the City Criterium. Based on a tight, 1km circuit around Oxford Terrace/Cambridge Terrace this will be a major national event featuring many of New Zealand's best cyclists. But will also be a fun-filled day for riders of all experience, including novice races and a celebrity tandem series, Penny Farthing demonstrations and Steve Gurney's Crazy Commuter competition.
World champion Greg Henderson is certainly keen. "I have actually won the national criterium title three times on this circuit," he says, "so we are both very excited about attending the race."
For more details, go to: www.festivalofcycling.co.nz