Rodger revved up for race before departure

While he is unsure if this will be his last race before he links up with his new overseas team, today's REV Cycle Classic would still be a fitting one for Karapiro's Shem Rodger to win.

The 24-year-old lines up for his fifth crack at the event, although he did not compete in it last year. It will be the first time he has raced the new Cambridge course.

The event is in its eighth year and until last year was based in Hamilton. Now it is on even more of a local patch for Rodger - not that he thinks that will make things any easier.

"It's always been a hard race, and good courses," he said. "It's quite nice knowing them pretty well, which is always a bit of a bonus.

"But I think it's going to be completely different now; it's going to be a lot harder, obviously it's a little bit longer, and with the inclusion this year of going over Sanatorium Hill for the elite race is going to make it really hard."

Rodger, formerly with New Zealand's PureBlack Racing, heads to England next month to join Node 4-Giordana Racing, with whom he signed a one-year deal from January 1.

Fellow countrymen Michael Northey, Roman Van Uden, Daniel Barry and James Williamson will be by his side there, as well as on the road today, with a training camp planned around today's event for the five of them.

Rodger said along with his team-mates, the likes of Jason Christie and older heads Gordon McCauley and Aaron Strong would provide plenty of competition today.

"It's going to be a pretty stacked field I think. Most of the top guys that are still in New Zealand will be there. It's definitely going to be a hard race.

"Cycling's so strong in New Zealand at the moment that there's probably 20 or 30 guys that have a pretty good chance of winning it."

Rodger's last outing was last month's New Zealand Cycle Classic in Manawatu, however he had only a couple of days' training going into that after coming back from a broken hand. Before that, his last race was in May last year after he suffered a broken hip then decided to go to Massey University in Palmerston North to study for the remainder of the year.

Having overcome the two setbacks, he is now keen to get back into the swing of things.

"I haven't done too much; this will be my first real race this year. I'm not too sure how it will go but I'm looking forward to it. It's not often you get to race so close to home, so that's always good."

Meanwhile, today's race will feature one of Latvia's two pro teams - Alpha Baltic/ - whose team of 12 is one of the strongest in the Baltics.

Today's races start and finish in Tom Voyle Park. The elite cyclists compete in the REV Classic, which for men is 135km and starts at 10.40am, while for women is 100km from 9am.

There is also the REV 100 (100km, 9am), the REV Midi (55km, 9am), the REV Intro (18km, 2pm) and the REV Mini Kids (a 2km circuit which can be ridden one, two or three times, 9.30am).

Waikato Times