Hills give Australian riders angst

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 22/01/2013
NZ Cycle Classic
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

HILL HUNT: Australian riders Nathan Earle, Pat Shaw and Campbell Flakemore, ready for a preview of the Manawatu course.

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One Australian team have arrived in Palmerston North early to try to get a head start on the rest of the field for the New Zealand Cycle Classic.

The Australian Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers team arrived on Sunday ahead of the tour through Manawatu, which starts tomorrow, and were getting a look at the course before everyone else arrived.

"As far as getting here earlier, it's not about the time, it's more about being able to see a few of the stages," team member Pat Shaw said.

"Also settle in a bit more. We always like to travel a few days early because we like to give the race the respect it deserves. The respect means you've got to have a look at the course."

Getting an early glimpse of the course was important for the five-man team as many riders struggled on the Manawatu hills last year. The new hill-top finish on the Saddle Road near Ashhurst will be hard and the crosswinds can wreak havoc.

"You can't slouch around and win this tour.

"You've got to be a good bike rider, you've got to be fit and you've got to be ready, and that's why we're here when we are."

Shaw, Ben Dyball, and Campbell Flakemore raced the tour last year, along with New Zealander Joseph Cooper who has joined the team, while Nathan Earle raced when the tour was based in Wellington.

Flakemore had a good tour last year, winning the time trial and finishing third overall.

The team were riding up Saddle Road yesterday to prepare them for the new stage 4, which Shaw was looking forward to.

"There are some undulating courses, nothing really brutal.

"Hopefully, this climb will split the group apart.

"We'll know more after we look at it today obviously, but we've got a very versatile group of riders, five riders capable of winning the race in their own manner."

Shaw, 26, believed the Saddle Rd would split the field if last year was anything to go by, so the hilltop finish would be as important as the time trial. The team has had a good build-up to the tour with a successful Herald Sun Tour in Victoria this month, when they won the teams classification, the sprint jersey, two stages and had Aaron Donnelly second in the general classification.

Shaw said they were a good time-trial group and they could press for a general classification win.

The first stage of the tour is a time trial from the Sport and Rugby Institute at Massey University tomorrow, starting at 2.30pm.

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- Manawatu Standard

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