Saddle Road climb key to Classic

Last updated 12:00 08/11/2012

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Jorge Sandoval's New Zealand Cycle Classic in Manawatu looks set to be bigger over a new course for the event in January.

Manawatu again hosts the international event and now the Manawatu Gorge has re-opened, it gives the race organisers more options.

Last year the closure of the Gorge forced a change in the race route and the two finals stages were very similar.

But this year the final two new stages are new, including the fourth stage - 131km, with a start in Palmerston North and four laps around Ashhurst before a gruelling climb to the top of the Saddle Road to finish.

The final stage is 117km from Palmerston North, a two-lap route between Rongotea, Himatangi and Glen Oroua, then back to Palmerston North.

With the tour route finalised, race director Sandoval singled out stage four, finishing at the top of Saddle Road, as the "Queen stage" of the tour.

"This stage will be crucial to whoever becomes the overall victor," he said. "Riding up the Saddle Road will test the riders to the maximum and I expect the stage winner to take the overall title."

The opening stage is a 7km time trial at Massey University, followed by a 148.3km ride from Palmerston North to Colyton, Kimbolton Apiti, then back to Palmerston North via Colyton.

Stage three goes in the reverse direction, 161.5km from Palmerston North, up Pohangina Valley, through Apiti and Kimbolton and back to Palmerston North as it did last year.

A total of 110 riders are expected to line up for the tour, including up to six overseas teams and the best New Zealand riders. The five-day classic is also the only UCI-sanctioned event in New Zealand.

Manawatu will again host the international women's tour in February.

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- Manawatu Standard

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