Bike Fest: Criterium on streets of city will set buzz

Rotorua locals will get the chance to watch the fast and exciting form of street criterium when it hits our streets next month.

The Novotel Lakeside Rotorua City Street Crit will bring the format right into the heart of town on Sunday February 10, as part of the Rotorua Bike Festival. It's a style of racing riders really enjoy, said organiser Peter Clark.

Olympic medallist and professional bike racer Sam Bewley is backing the event.

"The circuit they have looks awesome and I think a big crowd will be attracted," the Orica-Green Edge rider said.

"Well, it should be a big crowd as it's amazing to watch these races in the city centre."

Bewley is from Rotorua and cut his competitive teeth racing mountain bikes in the renowned Whakarewarewa trail network, south of the city, before moving to the track and road.

He was looking forward to racing at the crit. However, his team have called him up to race at the Tour of Qatar, another big step in his already stellar career.

"I've never really raced on the road in Rotorua and would've loved to put a show on for the local crowds," Bewley said.

For Peter Clark, of Cycling Rotorua, the club organising the street crit, the race is special even without Bewley. Clark expects an entry list of about 250.

"This sort of racing on a short kilometre-long course is amazing," Clark said. "Spectators get the opportunity to view the riders up close every 90 seconds and appreciate the speed and intensity of the event."

The Rotorua inner city crit would be even more intense than most, Clark said. "The course is very physical with road humps, a roundabout with cobblestones, a 'hotdog' U turn just before the finish and four 90 degree corners on the circuit and all at over 40 kilometres an hour."

Riders with a high skill level or risk takers will certainly have the edge as they race through Eat Streat, Rotorua's restaurant precinct, with diners just an arm's length from the action.

Clark said it wasn't for the faint-hearted, but it was not only for top riders.

"We have a category for riders without race licences and novices or locals who would just like to have a go," Clark said.

"For our club, it's all about showcasing road cycling and letting people have a go."

Cycling Rotorua is also running a points trophy for local clubs in the Bay of Plenty/Waikato region. Riders from the Taupo, Tauranga, Whakatane, Opotiki and Tokoroa Clubs are expected to race.

The Rotorua Bike Festival Parade will follow the street crit, starting outside the Novotel at 5.30pm.

The street criterium and bike parade is just one of a long list of events on the festival programme.

Brand new events like the Agroventures Shweeb World Champs, the Skyline Sprint Warrior and Giant 2W Gravity Enduro also feature on the schedule.

There will be fun rides for the kids and social rides for the grown-ups. The Redwoods Coast, Hardcourt Bike Polo and Mountain Bike Adventure Quest Orienteering are also in the mix.

The second weekend of the festival will feature the mountain bike national championships with New Zealand's elite cross-country and downhill racers competing for 2013 titles.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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