The road cycling season is about to kick off for New Zealand cyclists, with the New Zealand Cycle Classic getting underway today. The top Kiwi women hit the road tomorrow when the Women's Tour Down Under begins, while the leading New Zealand men will take part in the first World Tour race of the season next Tuesday at the Tour Down Under. Niall Anderson analyses 10 Kiwi riders to keep an eye on in 2020.
Had a mixed season last year, providing strong support in valuable causes for his Jumbo-Visma team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, but only his sixth-place finish at Paris-Nice would be classed as a top individual result. However, with Jumbo-Visma's army of climbers all heading to the Tour this year, Bennett has been given sole general classification leadership at the Giro d'Italia, and if things go well – and his pesky side stitch problem is finally solved – he could break his own record for the best Grand Tour result by a Kiwi. Despite his distaste for the decisive Willunga Hill, if Bennett is in good form he could also be a chance for his best result at the Tour Down Under, and while a medal at his main objective – the Olympics – is a longshot, he's good enough to be a contender, which few riders will be able to claim on an extremely tough course. Also, considering he has never crossed the line first in a stage as a professional, a 2020 stage win wouldn't go amiss.
Started 2019 in incredible fashion by beating some of the world's best sprinters at the Tour Down Under to claim New Zealand's first World Tour stage win since 2011, and ended it by nearly making New Zealand cycling history – missing a World Championships medal in the time trial by just two seconds . Throw in a second-place in a Vuelta time trial , and the fact Bevin was leading Down Under until a crash on the penultimate stage , and it could have been a breakout year for the 28-year-old, but instead he has unfinished business in 2020. A repeat dose at the Tour Down Under is unlikely – the course is slightly more suited to climbers this year – and while Olympic and World Championship time trial medals are a big goal, he again is probably a decent outside chance, rather than a likely medallist. Instead, this could be the year Bevin takes a major World Tour time trial victory, and his excellent all-round skillset means he'll be a chance of claiming further stellar feats no matter what race he partakes in.
Beginning last year racing in Palmerston North and Cambridge, it's unlikely Archbold expected he would be at the Vuelta and World Championships come the end of 2019. However, his skills as a lead-out man for sprinter and friend Sam Bennett saw him receive an April call from leading World Tour squad Bora-Hansgrohe, and he impressed enough there that Bennett took him along when the Irish sprint star moved to the best team in the sport, Deceuninck-Quick Step, with the 30-year-old Kiwi earning a two-year deal. He and Bennett's first races for their new squad come in Australia, and then expect to see Archbold trying to lead Bennett to glory in some of the world's most famous races this year.
The 21-year-old had a promising debut season as a professional with Canyon SRAM after earning a spot on the team via a competition run by online indoor training platform Zwift. Just one of two Kiwis on the Women's World Tour, Harris won the youth category of the Vuelta a Burgos, was the second best young rider at the Emakumeen Bira, and finished fourth overall at the Colorado Classic. Harris will race at all the early Australian events, and some further strong results will only enhance her status as one of New Zealand's most promising general classification riders.
A veteran now at 34, Bauer is much like Mitchelton-Scott teammate Sam Bewley or Education First's Tom Scully, in that individual success is largely put aside for the overall benefits of the team. However, of the three, Bauer looms as the most likely to also potentially snag a top result, and is New Zealand's best chance of success in a cobbled classic. Bauer lasted deep into the race at the Dwars door Vlaanderen, and nearly won Gent-Wevelgem, being agonisingly caught with 300 metres to go . He and Scully are likely to fly the flag for New Zealand in the big one-day races, and with a bit of luck and the right tactics, either could be in the mix come the end.
Had an injury-plagued year to forget in 2019, setting back what had looked to be a breakout 2018 season with two fourth-placed World Tour results, along with a cluster of other top finishes. Instead, a New Zealand time trial championship on January 4 was as good as it got last year, and with Williams on the same Mitchelton-Scott team as the legendary Annemiek van Vleuten, Australian star Amanda Spratt and a host of other top names, she'll have to be on teammate duty for a large chunk of the year. Still only 26, 2020 shapes as an important bounce-back year.
One of the best riders without a professional win , Smith's chances of ending that statistic weren't helped by a jump up to World Tour level last year with Mitchelton-Scott, where he received fewer opportunities than with his Belgian second-tier Wanty squad. A second-place on a stage at the Herald Sun Tour started his season, and an impressive third at the Japan Cup ended it, but Smith showed his promise at the Volta a Catalunya – sticking with an incredible bunch of climbers on a tough circuit – and at the Binck Bank Tour, where he hung with the top classic specialists to finish 14th. Smith has the potential to win a major race, but at the moment, he's a jack of all trades, yet to master a dominant skill.
The 19-year-old gets to jump up to the international level with Belgian team Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport after catching the eye in 2019. A fourth-placed finish at the Women's Herald Sun Tour when just 18 was mightily impressive, and came after an Under-23 national time trial crown, and a second-place at the Gravel and Tar. Merrick will race on the second tier in Europe, but should get plenty of opportunities to prove she can cut it at the next level, including participation in the Women's Tour Down Under from tomorrow.
Thought he had claimed the biggest win of his career on stage four at the Tour of Utah – only to celebrate a lap early – yet nearly went and won stage five, only to be pipped on the line by Lachlan Morton. In the end, McCormick came away with consolation prize of the King of the Mountains jersey, and ended his season with solid finishes of fourth and fifth in two tours in China. His career-best year looked worthy of a call-up to the second-tier Pro Continental level, but instead McCormick moved to new all-Kiwi third-tier team Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy, where he should be a contender for glory in most of their races, starting with the Cycle Classic, which he won in 2018.
One of New Zealand's most promising cyclists across all disciplines, Fisher-Black set a world record on the track in the under-19 3000m individual pursuit – a result good enough to catch the eye of the Jumbo-Visma development team, who gave the 18-year-old a deal for 2020. Victories on the road in the Oceania junior road race and time trial, and a 10th placing at the junior road time trial world champs, would have aided his cause, and while Fisher-Black is unlikely to take part in any races of great consequence this year, he has a chance to make an early statement when riding for the New Zealand team at the Cycle Classic. The Nelson product could be on the path to a career filled with accomplishment, regardless of the road – or track – he chooses.