Central Hawke's Bay will be alive with the hum of bike wheels once again this month as the 26th annual Tour de Beautiful returns to the perfectly-suited country roads and popular new mountain bike trails.

For the second year, the Longridge Tour de Beautiful will be a two-day Festival of Cycling, says Cycling CHB club member Tim Mackie.

"We added mountain biking last year for our 25th anniversary cycling festival. It proved so popular we have kept the same format - a two-day event with mountain biking on Saturday, January 26 and road cycling on Sunday, January 27."

Both days include categories for electric bikes, making the event accessible for cyclists of all abilities.

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The Bay Motorcycle Mountain Bike event starts and finishes at Russell Park, Waipukurau, with riders navigating downstream along the south bank of the Tukituki River berm, exiting onto Mt Herbert Rd and making a circuit of the Gum Tree Farm Mountain Bike Park, before crossing the river and returning to Russell Park via the north bank of the Tukituki River. Parking will be at the rear of the hockey grounds.

The mountain bike competition will run in three sections: The 40km long course makes two circuits of the trails and park, while the short course does one circuit, and there is a 7km race for children under 7.

Sunday's road race event, the Longridge Tour de Beautiful, will start from CHB College on Tavistock Rd and will boast four scenic road courses of varying lengths, designed to appeal to the professional-standard riders right down to the juniors aspiring to emulate the feats of five-time tour winner and CHB Olympian and track champion, Westley Gough.

Regardless of which course they tackle - whether it is the elite Ruahine Ford 100km race, the BM Accounting 55km race, the more leisurely Bay Motorcycles 25km or the Raisey's 10km for the juniors, riders will benefit from the fun, friendly challenge of this event, along CHB's scenic rural roads.

Tim Mackie says the many years of experience the CHB Cycling Club has in running the event means it runs like clockwork and this adds to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
"It's well run, on a good safe course and we have good spot prizes and $1000 worth of cash prizes, as well as catering by a group from CHB College.

First-time riders from out of the district often comment 'where are the cars?' after they experience our rural roads. Of course we do have to contend with the odd pothole or one way bridge, but we have a great team of volunteers - from club members to Rotary Club marshals - keeping everyone safe and the racing running smoothly.

"We also accept late entries on the day of the race, as cyclists like to check the weather forecast, and our entry fees haven't gone up in the last 10 years. It all contributes to an event that continues to attract competitors year after year.

"In a sport where there are a lot of events to choose from and riders are spoiled for choice, we attract good numbers and a high calibre field, including New Zealand champions. We are very grateful to our sponsors for their part in helping make this happen."

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The origins of the event go back to 1993 when four friends decided to showcase the wonders of Central Hawke's Bay with a cycle event.

The formula of fine scenery and great hospitality meant attendance soared to more than 600 in a couple of years.

The first local tour winner came in 1998, when Philip Burns won the 100km race in a close-fought finish with soon-to-be world champion Jeremy Yates.

Ten years later began the reign of another homegrown star, Olympian and track champion Westley Gough, who has a total of five wins to his credit, while Olympians Regan Gough, national champion Amanda Jameison and former junior world champion Luke Mudgeway have also been regulars on the Tour de Beautiful circuit throughout their careers, which began at junior level with Cycling CHB.

Over time the tour has seen some changes both to the course and headquarters location - in 2005 a major change was made to the courses because of the logistics. The finish was shifted from the scary left-right-left combination of Mitchell St to the straight run of Tavistock Rd and CHB College, with a large hall, excellent kitchen facility and lots of shady trees, was seen as a more acceptable headquarters. The current courses were introduced in 2013.

2019 events: ¦ Saturday, January 26:
Mountain Bike: Long course - 40km:
Short course - 20km:
Junior course - 10km.
Sunday, January 27:
Longridge Tour De Beautiful:
Start from CHB College Svenson Rd Waipukurau - parking available off Svenson Road College in grounds. There will be a neutralised start for each races.
Ruahine Ford 100km - 9am
BM Accounting 55km - 9.15am
Bay Motorcycles 25km - 9.40am
Raiseys Original 10km - 10am
Tough Guy Tough Girl Challenge: Mountain bike long course and Ruahine Ford 100km.
Please note: A 7am start is available for slower riders of the Ruahine Ford 100km, but you must be pre-registered.
For maps or registration go to www.cyclingchb.co.nz or tridentresults.com upcoming events
Early bird entries close January 17.