Top cycling teams eye local event in Commonwealth Games build-up

BY DR STEPHEN STANNARD, RACE DIRECTOR

With the Commonwealth Games across the Tasman in April 2018, cycling teams from around the globe are eyeing Palmerston North’s Gravel and Tar Classic in their training plans. 

The late-January cycle event, now in its third year, was recently given a level 1.2 status by cycling’s international body, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale). The status brings the Gravel and Tar Classic into the fold of being one of only six events across Oceania to be awarded this level of distinction.

Following the accreditation, race organiser Steve Stannard has fielded calls from as far afield as Uganda and the United Kingdom as individual cyclists and cycling teams look to compete at a high level leading up to the Commonwealth Games.

“By taking part in this event, riders can gain valuable UCI points early in the season and get noticed for the big races in Europe later on,” Stannard said.

The multi-surface race includes around 40km of gravel roads as part of the 132km circuit.With the town being so close to the country, the inclusion of gravel makes for a complex ride and requires grit and guts.

“The race suits the hard men of cycling.”

— STEVE STANNARD, RACE DIRECTOR

“The gravel sections really bring out the strength of the rider. Because there’s less grip and they have to carefully choose their lines, there’s no sitting on the bunch and winning in a sprint. The race suits the hard men of cycling”.  

It is hoped that the Palmerston North event on January 27 will attract riders already participating in the Wairarapa-based NZ Cycle Classic being held one week earlier.  Both events hold the same race category status under UCI, but with the Wellington event being a staged (tour) event against the one-day (classic) event in Palmerston North.

Steve Stannard