Up-and-coming road cyclists from as far afield as Denmark have come together to represent Rotorua Racing at the New Zealand Cycle Classic.
The event, which is in its 31st year, is raced throughout Wairarapa and is the only UCI 2.2 event staged in New Zealand. It has served as a platform for numerous cyclists looking to make the step up to the top levels of racing.
The Rotorua Racing team comprises Cosmo Bloor, who studied in Rotorua but now lives in Auckland, Dan Busbridge, of Papamoa, Will Findlay, of Christchurch, Leighton Taylor, of Brisbane, Dylan McKenna, of Victoria, Australia and Mathies Mortenson, of Denmark.
Rotorua cycling enthusiast Ian Guy set up Rotorua Racing in 2015 and has been working on getting more young people involved in the sport. He said, while none of the riders in the New Zealand Cycle Classic team currently lived in Rotorua, it showed the local athletes there was something to aspire to.
"Part of the reason for setting it up was the fact there were lots and lots of opportunities for mountain-biking kids in town but there was not much for road-cycling kids," Guy said.
Bloor, who is better known for his mountain biking achievements after finishing second in the Whaka 100 and winning the Winter Mountain Bike Series, was excited about the transition to road cycling.
"It's quite a lot scarier. This will be my first UCI tour so it's quite a step up. Obviously with the mountain bike scene, I sort of know who I'm racing, with this I'm stepping in at the bottom and racing a lot of people that I don't know how good they are.
"For me coming into this I'll be working for our other riders, in some respects it's easy because I just have to make sure that they're doing well and help them out. There's no pressure for me to have to try and win a stage, the team aspect changes it massively.
"I really like [this team]. Obviously it's a huge contribution from Ian, I think it's pretty cool that he's helping us get to this level. Also, for the kids in Rotorua, he's doing a programme with them, building bikes and setting them up so they can ride," Bloor said.
Team manager John Lee, of Rotorua, said the New Zealand Cycling Classic was one of the highest ranked cycling events in Australasia.
"A lot of the Australian professional teams come over for it. It's not the top, top level, but it's the just bubbling under level, so it's a great tour for developing riders who want to go on to other things.
"Five of our New Zealand Pro Tour riders, riding Tour de France level, have all raced in this tour, it's a great kick-off point for careers so we're hoping some of these boys have got something like that.
"They're definitely in development - it's like a box of chocolates at Christmas time, we're going to open it up and see what we've got. We haven't raced a s a team before, so it's going to be interesting, but they've all got a good professional attitude," Lee said.
The tour starts with a circuit race today followed by five days of stages, averaging about 120km per day.