Hawke's Bay's hosting of the the Big Save Elite Road National Championship appears to have got the big tick of approval from Cycling New Zealand - and from former top pro rider and event ambassador Julian Dean.

Not even strong westerly winds, which saw gusts of up to 74km/h recorded mid-morning yesterday, could blow away the enthusiasm of all those involved in the 117km women's race on Saturday and the 180km elite men's and U23 road races yesterday, and of the spectators who had to hang on to their hats and fold-chairs.

Sun umbrellas were out of the question.

"The wind has been challenging but these riders are used to all sorts of conditions," Mr Dean said.


"The one thing it does do is create true champions."

Mr Dean said the logistics of staging an event like the nationals, which Napier will host for three years, were complex and extensive.

"It is not easy but a lot of people have put a lot of effort into this and it has been very successful - and it [the course] is a very good and challenging one."

Napier City Council events manager Kevin Murphy praised the work of everyone involved, and took his hat off to the team of more than 70 volunteers who helped with course control and traffic movements - as most of the roads across the course, rural and in the city, stayed open to traffic which was allowed through when the main groups had passed by.

"This is the first up for us in hosting the nationals and I've talked to the Cycling New Zealand people and they are very pleased with what we have done."

Mr Murphy said it was a first for the region to stage the event and he was confident it would grow more in the years to come.

"And it's going world-wide - it's such a good showcase for Hawke's Bay."

Race director Ivan Aplin was thrilled at how everything transpired.

"We are very pleased how it all went and there were no issues at all."

Mr Aplin said when he woke at 4 in the morning and heard gale force winds he thought "oh God" - but it all worked out and there were no wind-related incidents.

"It's been a lot of work - oh yes, I'll sleep well tonight," he said.

From 10am yesterday spectator numbers began to build up, and the Botanical Gardens off Spencer Rd was a popular spot for about 300 people.

Banners and signs were hung from fences and walls.

"Go the Goughs" and "Go Bianchi" were among them, while on the roadway itself chalked messages of support had been drawn.

Complimentary cowbells had been handed out to many spectators by the organising crew and they were rung big-time when the leading pack came up the rise for the first time just after 11.20am.

The crowd moved forward to line the footpath and cheered the riders through.

Crowds also assembled at both sides of Shakespeare Rd, with the downhill stretch and the left-hand fast bend into Browning St leaving many watching in awe - one man simply said "they can't be human - that's impossible".

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton was on hand to farewell the 71 riders for the big race, as well as cheer them across the finish line, and said everything had gone smoothly and that "word of mouth" would build the event over the next two years.

"We really want to get the public behind this event because it will grow."

Police Hawke's Bay Area road policing team member Sergeant Paul Ormerod said seven police cars and officers, as well as two police motorcycles and riders from Wellington worked as the race escorts for the riders.

"Apart from a couple of motorists who appeared oblivious to something going on it was very good."

Police had to be especially vigilant as the race pack broke into sections, which saw cars attempting to get on to the roadway before the next group arrived.

"But on the whole most people were pretty good - and what a great thing for Napier."