Luke Mudgway to ride Gravel and Tar classic with new team Evo Pro Racing

Former Palmerston North Boys' High School cyclist Luke Mudgway is heading back to Manawatū to contest the Gravel and Tar Classic and will bring his new UCI team with him.

Having signed with Evo Pro Racing, a newly formed Irish team, the former world junior track champion is keen to advance on last year's 10th-place ranking in the event and introduce team-mates to this brutal challenge, held on January 19.

"Gravel and Tar adds a fresh aspect to racing in our calendar. It is so different to any other race on the UCI circuit," he said.

"You need a really tough mentality and a ruthless work ethic to win as it requires a huge amount of skill and concentration where one wrong move and you can puncture or crash out of the race...

"You need a bit of luck, mongrel and a lot of horsepower to win.”

"I have told the team how awesome this race is, to bring the 28-millimetre tyres and to be ready for a brutal race."

The 22-year-old has been riding in Continental class teams since 2015 and has a new opportunity with Evo Pro Racing, indicating they are chasing UCI points this year in a bid to enter the higher Pro Continental class in 2020.

"Moving to the Evo Pro Racing team is a huge step in my career and I will [compete in] bigger races more frequently, which in return will give me the chance to showcase myself against some of the best teams in the world," Mudgway said.

Other Kiwi riders in the team are Timaru-born Shane Archbold and Aucklander Aaron Gate.

With a heavy race programme early in the season, including the New Zealand Cycle Classic in Waikato in late January, team managers will name Mudgway's fellow for the Gravel and Tar Classic the week before the race.

"The team starting their first race where I live is really awesome. I know most of the guys coming here and I think they will really enjoy what the Manawatū has to offer, provided the weather holds out," Mudgway said.

Race director Steve Stannard said having a team from the other side of the world indicated the race had good international profile.

"I think it reflects the hospitality the town has provided the riders over the last few years and they are coming back, bringing new riders with them," he said.

"Luke's an example of yet another local rider who's made good on the international cycling scene and that's why he's got a contract with a team like Evo Pro.

"What's even more pleasing is that he's bringing his team back to the Manawatū to ride the roads that he cut his teeth on," Stannard said.

Hannah Rowe