Hamish Bond to return for crack at second Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge

After a well-received start to the event last year, the Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge is set to return this year.
Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge

After a well-received start to the event last year, the Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge is set to return this year.

Cyclists in this year's Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge will have the option of entering a mountainbike event.

Earlybird entries for the November 18 event open at 6pm on Thursday.

Organiser John McIntyre said feedback regarding last year's inaugural event had been encouraging.

Olympic rower Hamish Bond is keen to return to defend his Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge title.
Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge

Olympic rower Hamish Bond is keen to return to defend his Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge title.

"Many of them were saying the course was better than Taupo, which is the benchmark cycle challenge event in the country, and we're lucky that we've just got amazing roads and scenery."

"I didn't create it – it was already here – we're just lucky to put it all together into an event that people seemed to enjoy." 

Double Olympic champion rower-turned-cyclist Hamish Bond has expressed a desire to defend the title he won in 2016, having blitzed the field in the 158-kilometre road race in three hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds.

This year's Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge has a mountainbike option at Silvan Forest.
Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge

This year's Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge has a mountainbike option at Silvan Forest.

While his attendance was dependent on his training schedule, McIntyre said he had kept in regular contact with Bond since his December victory.

"His cycling workload is picking up but he'll be back from Europe around August so we'll see if we can get him here."

"He enjoyed the mix of the climbs which is what a lot of people enjoyed about it last year- last year we got pretty lucky with the wind - we could have the opposite this year which might make it even more challenging, so maybe it's lucky we've shaved off three kms for a few people."

More than 600 competitive and recreational riders took part in the 2016 event and McIntyre was hopeful of increasing those numbers towards the 2,000 mark this year.

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"They're very aggressive numbers to be chasing, but we started last year with zero database and this year we're starting with just over 600," he said.

"We think we can grow the event year on year – as we've always said we want it to be the largest annual participation event in Nelson Tasman and to do that we need to average around 2,000 or over." 

As well as the 155km road race, several new courses and disciplines are being offered to appeal to more riders.

The most notable addition is the expansion into mountainbiking, with a four-lap course through the Silvan Forest Mountain Bike Park in Richmond.

"We know Nelson Tasman is world class and one of only six gold rated mountainbike areas in the world, so we need to offer something for those mountainbikers who want to get up and be part of the cycle challenge event and have something a little bit different."

McIntyre has worked on creating a challenging course to complement the road event with the help of the Griffin family who own the land and Chris Mildon of the MTB Trails Trust. 

The exact trail details will not be released until the day before the event, but McIntyre said the trail would offer "a slightly different mix" of what was currently available in the Richmond Hills.

Also new to the cycle challenge were the 73km Marahau Mission – last year's 88km second half – and a 13km on-road Fun Ride for families and cyclists aged 10 years and up.

The varying distances offered new challenges for participants.

"Hopefully that's going to entice the person that did the nifty-fifty last year and thought 'well, if I can do that then this year I'll have a crack at the second half."

"It's a real achievement if you can get yourself over the Marahau Hill on a bike and so it's all part of starting with something new this year with the13km fun ride, we'd love people to increase what they do until they're able to tick off the solo and say yeah, I've managed to do the whole 155km."

The popular nifty-fifty course – actually 47km – is back for another year, starting from School Road in Riwaka.

"We don't want to change the golden formula we've got, the only things we've tried to do is make the event safer again and also just give participants a better way to finish the event," McIntyre said.

The start and finish points for the on-road 155km course and the mountainbiking event will move from Saxton Field to Champion Road, allowing a straight sprint finish and removing 3km and two roundabouts from the original course.

Subject to its completion, the Saxton Velodrome is being earmarked as the centrepiece venue for the cycle challenge, allowing finishers to enjoy a victory lap before taking part in the "carnival atmosphere" of post-event festivities later that day.

While McIntyre admitted the next six months' planning was easier to contemplate second time around, he was aware some aspects were beyond his control.  

"It's much better having the first one under your belt, having really good feedback and returning sponsors – all of those give us the confidence to expand the event but in saying that there will still be a few sleepless nights leading up to it with the weather and things but that's the game you're in."

Entries can be made at www.atcc.nz. from 6pm Thursday.

 - Stuff

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