The New Zealand Cycle Classic will by no means be a training exercise for the English Rapha Condor JLT team this week.
Rapha Condor is one of the favourites for the five-day tour throughout Manawatu and the strong team is eyeing up a tour win.
The team has been in Melbourne since November training and racing, and performed well in the recent Bay Cycling Classic at Geelong where team member Luke Grivell-Mellor was on the podium a couple of times.
"We've come here to try and get a few good results," the 20-year-old from the Midlands, near Birmingham, said.
"We've been training hard in Bendigo where we've been based.
"We're all coming out here in decent shape and we'd like to come here and get something out of it."
Based out of Manchester, Rapha Condor weren't the only team to arrive in Palmerston North early.
A couple of Australia teams have also arrived to check out the course before the tour starts tomorrow
"Hopefully we'll be one of the teams up there making the racing," said Grivell-Mellor.
"But there's a few other good teams there like Drapac and the New Zealand national team and Genesys [now Avanti].
"There's a few other good teams here so we're going to have our work cut out but hopefully we'll be up there."
Grivell-Mellor, along with team-mates Graham Briggs, Elliot Porter, Ed Laverack and Will Stephenson, did a reconnaissance mission on stage five yesterday so they were used to the hill stage.
Stage five goes from Palmerston North over the Pahiatua Track to Wairarapa and comes back to Manawatu to finish at the top of Saddle Road.
It could be the deciding stage of the tour.
Grivell-Mellor said it should be a couple of hard days, especially stage five, but it would make for good racing.
"I think it could decide the race if it's close coming into that last day. If the days before are hard, the race could have already been decided before then."
Briggs is their sprint ace, Laverack and Stephenson are their two climbers and both Porter and Grivell-Mellor are allrounders.
"If I have a good race I'd like to be going for the overall but we've got a few good guys that could also go for it as well," Grivell-Mellor said.
He didn't mind the windy conditions, either, saying it put the climbers on the ropes.
Racing in New Zealand is a new experience for the team as they haven't been in the country before and didn't know many of the other riders.
They have competed against a couple of the Australian teams in Asia and a few of the New Zealand riders who ride in the United Kingdom.
Rapha Condor races in the United Kingdom, but mainly competes in Europe and Asia.
Favourites for the overall title include Floris Goesinnen from the Netherlands who is riding for Drapac Professional Cycling, Australian Patrick Lane riding for the Azerbaijan Synergy Baku Cycling Project and Grivell-Mellor's team-mate Briggs.
Others to watch are James Oram and Tom Scully who are riding for the New Zealand national team.
Scully is fresh off winning a gold medal at the track cycling world cup in Mexico and Oram won last year's Tour of Southland.
The tour starts in Palmerston North tomorrow with the 5km time trial on JFK Drive, which goes from Colquhoun Park to the airport and back, starting at 2.30pm.
Stage two is on Thursday and is 143km from Palmerston North to Colyton, Kimbolton, Apiti, Pohangina and back to Palmerston North via Colyton.
- Manawatu Standard
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