Big plans for cycle tour's future
New Zealand Cycle Classic race director Jorge Sandoval wants a bigger, better version of the Manawatu tour next year.
The five-day UCI tour only finished on Sunday, but Sandoval is already preparing for next year, and his big focus is to get more people out watching the tour.
After the tour was held in Manawatu for the first time last year, a few small teething problems such as traffic control were fixed. It ran a lot smoother this year, and more people got behind it.
"Talking to all our people and what we saw, the public support was a lot better than last year," Sandoval said.
"It's a reward for me to see farmers with their families outside their gates with the race programme we delivered to their letterbox in their hand, watching the race."
The tour also got away without a crash until the final 10km of the last stage, but it wasn't too serious.
Last year's race did not feature a major hill climb. The Manawatu Gorge was closed then, so Saddle Rd couldn't be used.
But the addition of a stage finish at the top of the Saddle improved the tour, and Sandoval said it would be the queen stage for years to come.
"In New Zealand, we're never going to have a hill climb like the L'Alpe d'Huez, the famous hill climb in the Tour de France. But we can have our own L'Alpe d'Huez in Manawatu."
Higgins Ltd, which handled traffic control, the police and the nice weather created a good atmosphere, while the riders gave the tour their endorsement, Sandoval said.
There had been a couple of complaints by people held up by the race, but Sandoval said this was natural.
"I'm more worried about the 99 per cent of people that really enjoyed the race, the people that came out and watched."
He said he was working on having a stage finish in The Square, instead of Memorial Park, so more people could watch, but was meeting with the other organisers tomorrow to work out the logistics.
Another goal is to upgrade the field with more international riders.
Frederick Chang, from Hong Kong, was the tour's UCI commissaire, and he had a few tips on how to improve the event, but also said it was one of the best races he had been to.
Even though the next tour is a year away, Sandoval isn't having any time off. With nine months of preparation, he is already organising things.
"The tour doesn't start when the riders come to the start line, and it doesn't end when they get to the finish line."
He is keen to get the women's cycle tour of New Zealand back, after he cancelled this year's edition due to tighter UCI doping regulations, which made it too expensive.
"We'll try and get the women off the ground again. To me, that's really important to get it back, having the two biggest events in Oceania in Palmerston North."
The next major cycling events in Manawatu are the Wellington to Auckland Cycle Challenge, which is coming through Manawatu on February 11-12, and the rescheduled Country Road Cycle Classic on February 16.