Cycle tour good for trade

By Cameron Leslie

Cycling

Coffee shops and restaurants beware. The Tour of New Zealand is coming to town, with cyclists in tow.

Race director Peter Yarrell has set the warning for April after learning from last year's experiences, which saw coffee shops inundated with lycra-clad cyclists seeking a caffeine hit.

"This year I'm working hard on making sure local communities know," Yarrell said. "[Last year] we found all the competitors knew, but coffee shops and the likes had no idea."

Yarrell has also put the challenge to cyclists and local schools to get out and join the riders as they pass through the north. They set off from Cape Reinga to Kaitaia on April 20, before heading from Opononi to Dargaville, then on to Brynderwyn and the rest of the North Island.

Yarrell said he wanted to see local people joining riders as they passed through towns, saying schools could enter as teams and raise money for local community projects.

The open invitation to join the eight-day ride will see the tour return to the Far North, something Yarrell said he was looking forward to seeing.

"The magnificent historic Cape Reinga lighthouse will welcome you on your journey south, but without words," he said.

Both participants and organisers "loved the hospitality and facilities" they found in the Far North during last year's inaugural event.

That tour featured 430 riders who raised about $80,000 for charities, with this year's cash going to the Heart Foundation.

Organisers planned to make this cycling event one of the biggest in the country within five years, Yarrell said.

The North and South Island legs begin simultaneously and finish at the Beehive in Wellington on April 27 for the final criterium.

There the tour leaders from each island will do battle over a 1km circuit, while other competitors enjoy one fun blast sprinting in front of friends and support crews.

The fees to take part in the eight-day tour have been kept "as low as possible", at $500 for individuals, $400 per rider in a team (featuring four or five riders), while casual cyclists could join for one day as the tour passed through their town by paying $75 a stage.

The motto for this year's event is, "You can race it or ride it".

The organisers say the tour is achievable by anyone who can ride 100km in under five hours without suffering major discomfort. Mainly for the riders, the Tour of New Zealand was a prime opportunity to enjoy New Zealand's wonderful scenery, Yarrell said.

"Unlike many other cycling events, it brings internationals and Kiwis together to explore our wonderful country.

"They are going to places many miss because they are normally bedazzled by advertisements depicting Rotorua or Queenstown.

"Having chosen your course, North or South, you will steer your bike through stunning, pristine New Zealand scenery, pedal over mountain passes, fly though bush-clad valleys, cruise through native forests, past lakes, and finish each day with memories never to be forgotten," he said.

For more information about the cycle tour, see the official website, www.tourofnewzealand.co.nz.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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