The battle to wear the national champions jersey in cycling events around the globe is a major draw for riders in this weekend’s Big Save Elite Road Championships in Napier.
All competitors are riding into the unknown on an exciting new course in Napier, the sixth time the championships have been staged in the Hawkes Bay, but the first time venturing into the inner city.
Organisers, supported by Napier City Council, have developed an exciting and testing road course with an initial long loop into the rolling country near Taradale, before returning for several laps of a testing and spectacular 13km inner city lap that includes the climb of Bluff Hill.
The championships begin on Friday with the time trials based at Church Road Winery with the course offering a mix of technical challenges and hills.
The national champions are entitled to wear the New Zealand colours throughout 2016 wherever they race.
The country’s most celebrated rider in recent times, Julian Dean, said the honour of wearing the champion’s jersey was a thrill.
"I got to wear my New Zealand jersey in races like the Tour de France. Not only was it a real honour, it also drew a lot of attention for the country," said the now-retired, two-time national champion who is the event ambassador.
The new road course is the major talking point as riders of all types from climbers like Nelson’s George Bennett to sprinters like Otago’s Greg Henderson weigh up who is best suited on this circuit.
Young hope Patrick Bevin, who recently signed for World Tour team Cannondale Pro Cycling, believes the course will be a tougher overall test that the daunting Cashmere Hill climbs in Christchurch which hosted the championships for the past five years.
"It is so hard. I do not think riders realise just how tough it will be. If it is a typically hot Hawkes Bay day then it will be absolutely brutal," Bevin said. "You will have to hang tough for as long as you can and hope to have some legs left for the final lap."