Cycle race great for watchers

A stage finish atop the Saddle Rd will be not just a challenge to cyclists but a highlight for spectators as well.

The New Zealand Cycle Classic will get under way tomorrow and race director Jorge Sandoval said there was plenty on offer for those wanting to watch the action.

The five-day-long tour begins with a 7.1-kilometre time trial in and around Massey University with the start/finish next to the rugby academy.

Mr Sandoval said this would be the best spot for spectators as they could see the riders' times as they came into the finish.

Stages two and three, on Thursday and Friday, take the cyclists out to Apiti and back, and Saturday has the new summit-top finish on the Saddle Rd.

The rest of the stages start in The Square, Palmerston North, while three out of five finish at Memorial Park on Thursday and Friday and at the railway land on Sunday.

The highlight, however, is Saturday.

"The fourth stage, I think, will be the one spectators will want to be going to," Mr Sandoval said.

From Palmerston North the cyclists ride out past Bunnythorpe for five laps of a circuit.

Mr Sandoval suggests spectators watch the first four laps before heading to the wind farm at the top of the Saddle Rd where the stage ends.

"When they go onto the last lap, drive to the top of the hill. As soon as the riders get to the bottom of the hill [at Ashhurst] the road will be closed.

"There are plenty of car parks at the top."

While the Saddle would not be as packed as the famous Alp d'Heuz summit finish on the Tour de France, Mr Sandoval said with the stage taking place on a Saturday, he hoped it would be popular.

"I'm looking forward to people in Manawatu getting involved more," he said.

The starts and finishes of each stage are on closed roads and police will be with the peloton in between, but Mr Sandoval said parts of the race were on open roads.

He asked that motorists show courtesy to the competitors and pull over to let the race past.

"If you're driving, be careful and take care, pull over to the left, get out of the car for a couple of minutes and see the riders go past and give them a cheer," Mr Sandoval said.

Manawatu Standard