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19th Trust House Classic (Tour of Wellington) - 2.2
New Zealand, January 25-29, 2006
By Nick Warren
One of the best fields in the history of the five-day Trust House Cycle Classic (Tour of Wellington) will begin racing in Lower Hutt on Wednesday January 25th, which is part of the UCI Oceania Tour and carries a UCI classification of 2.2. Among some of New Zealand's finest riders in the peloton are the South Australia.com-AIS team, the Trust House team, a Scottish National Team and even Ugandan based Shimano Cycling Club.
In its first season, South Australia.com-AIS boasts a wealth of talent, including team leader and team-pursuit Olympic and Commonwealth Champion, Peter Dawson. Dawson recently competed in the tough Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in Australia which finished just days before Wellington's Tour gets underway. He is joined by Stephen Wooldridge, Miles Olman, Ashley Hutchinson, Sean Finning and Wesley Sulzberger.
34 year-old Rob McLachlan leads the Trust House team, continuing his successful comeback after a ten-year retirement which ended in 2004. McLachlan's teammates are Stuart Shaw, Darren Lapthorne, Michael Cuppit, Dylan Cooper and Fabio Calabria.
Scotland, sending their first ever team to Wellington, will be using the race as preparation for the Commonwealth Games and is led by Duncan Urquhart. All six members of the team are selected for Melbourne's Games, although Gareth Montgomerie and Rob Wardell are due to ride the mountain bike cross-country event.
Bike New Zealand is expected to announce its Commonwealth team during the Tour but riders will still be keen to impress.
National road race champion and Samsung-New Zealand team leader Gordon McCauley is playing down his overall chances after suffering a serious setback at the end of December. McCauley was knocked off his bike while training and sustained facial injuries and a fractured wrist.
"I still want to do well but my aim is to help my teammates," he said.
McCauley's top class team include Peter Latham, Jason Allen, Tim Gudsell, Marc Ryan and Logan Hutchings. Latham, who recently returned to racing after injuring his shoulder last December, won three stages in 2005 and is a serious prospect for overall victory.
"I really enjoy this Tour," he said, "It's a lot of fun and there's always a good atmosphere on the race."
Samsung-New Zealand's main homegrown rivals are Team Subway. Containing ex-Team Discovery rider Hayden Roulston, former world champion Greg Henderson and national criterium champion Hayden Godfrey, the team will be looking to repeat their recent dominance at the Tour de Vineyards in Nelson.
Subway also lists Tour of Southland stage winner Jeremy Vennel, Sam Bewley and Mike Northey on their start sheet.
Adding a touch of continental class is last-minute entrant Julian Dean. Dean, who rides for French squad Credit Agricole, had an injury plagued 2005 but rescued his season claiming ninth in the World Championships and seventh at Paris-Tours. While he is renowned as a sprinter, he will certainly be no slouch on the hills.
The seven stage, five day tour encompasses a mixture of testing mountainous stages, tight city centre criteriums and a time trial. It kicks off with an evening criterium, featuring a number of sharp turns, in Lower Hutt on January 25th.
Moving out to nearby Wairarapa region for the following day, riders will have to contend with two stages in one day; a morning road race followed by an evening criterium in Masterton comprising stages two and three. Stage four heralds the longest stage of the race, an undulating 158km course around Masterton's surrounding countryside.
A showdown is expected on stage five which finishes on top of the brutal Admiral Hill after 125km of near continuous climbing and descending.
The race finishes on Sunday January 29th with a flat and fast 12km morning time trial in Scorching Bay followed by a 40km criterium in Petone.