Cycling: Cycle fever envelops Taupo

This year's 36th running of the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge will burst into life around the picturesque circuit tomorrow and includes something all Kiwis love - the classic transtasman sporting rivalry.

The cream of New Zealand's cycling talent will once again take on the annual pilgrimage to Taupo, including recent Tour Of Southland winner, Mike Northey, who will be hoping to continue his winning form against more than 70 entrants in the 160km Men's Classic Race.

Others to feature in the race include last year's winner, Michael Torckler, and recent Olympic bronze medallist, Aaron Gate.

"I have been coming to the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge since I was about 13-years-old with family and friends," said Northey.

"Its a great event and always a fun weekend. I have my teammate Matt Cronshaw out from the UK at the moment, and he will be racing with me.

"I have been on the podium twice in the Classic Race and would love to come away with the win this year."

The OPI Women's Road Race will see four elite riders from Australia in Rebecca Locke, Nicole Whitburn, Naomi Williams and Sarah Riley.

The crack Australian quartet will take on some of New Zealand's best including Emma Crum, Rushlee Buchanan, Kate Chilcott and Reta Trotman.

But perhaps the most popular athlete for the expected huge spectator numbers to look out for, will be rising NZ mountain bike star, Karen Hanlen, who will contest the Contact Huka XL mountain bike race.

This is the event Hanlen made her first competitive race in back in 2009 and she won it last year to kick-start a memorable 12 months, where she represented New Zealand at this year's Olympic Games as well as taking the 2012 NZ National Mountain Bike champion and Oceania champion titles.

Organisers are expecting up to 8500 entrants this year with over 300 internationals and 100 multi-lap enduro riders already entered.

Event director, Kay Brake, says anyone thinking of coming along can be assured of a great time.

"Whether you're riding or there as support, we have a whole lot of options to keep you entertained over event weekend, as well as over $150,000 of spot prizes up for grabs," said Brake.

For athletes still keen to take part in the event, late entries for the 12 event categories within the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge will be available at the Great Lake Centre in Taupo from 10am-10pm today.

To view the range of event options and other key information for event day, go to the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge website

- Bay of Plenty Times

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