An ambitious eight day nationwide cycling event that starts from both ends of New Zealand kicks off tomorrow morning.
The tour begins simultaneously in Cape Reinga or Bluff at 10am finishing about 700 kilometres or eight days later at the Beehive in Wellington. Teams or individuals have chosen to begin at the top of the North Island or at the bottom of the South Island.
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt gets things underway for South Islanders at Stirling Point near Bluff which will be linked up with Cape Reinga with a sound system so North and South Island competitors can start simultaneously once North Island Race Director Garry Collin fires the starting gun.
Riders range in age and ability from school teams right through to an 84 year old tandem rider in the North Island.
Christchurch mountain bike sensation Anton Cooper is riding in the Christchurch Boys High team. Cooper signed a professional contract with one of the world's leading teams, Trek World Racing, late last year after a string of impressive international performances.
Well known cooking personality Jo Seagar is doing the Methven to Oxford ride on a Dutch town bike complete with thermos and nibbles.
Lifestyle-publication writers from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, China and the UK are all riding in the tour which Tourism New Zealand's Brand and International PR General Manager Catherine Bates says is a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the best road cycling routes that could be part of a cycling holiday.
"We know that many potential travellers show a special interest in cycling. It's an activity that has potential for growth and offers a compelling reason for international visitors to come to New Zealand."
Organisers says that participants will either race hard or take their time as they ride towards the middle of the country in stages as serious racers or simply as tour adventurers checking out the diverse scenery on offer.
Bates says the international media teams will have the opportunity to experience both the North Island and South Island stages of the tour, to fully sample New Zealand's diversity of landscapes.
"We're confident they'll see vastly different, spectacular scenes as they cycle from Queenstown to Wanaka, then to Twizel, Tekapo and Fairlie, before sampling the North Island from Waitomo to Wanganui, and finally to Wellington."
Tour spokesperson Simon Yarrell says that over 300 people have signed up for the tour and stresses it is not only about speed and competition. Yarrell himself has entered as an individual only six months after breaking his back in a skiing accident.
"It's been a long time getting to this stage of actually starting," he says. "It's just so exciting and we have had such great support we can't wait to get going."
Yarrell says he hopes the country will get behind the riders who are all riding for chosen charities, but stresses for most it's about the challenge to complete one day or one stage of the journey.
"It's based on fun, fitness, and supporting community organisations," he says.
"We want the tour to raise money for Kiwi cycle-ways via donations to the Hikurangi Foundation as well as supporting the Red Cross and St John."
There are a number of colourful team entries that include the Stroopies team who say they have found a secret weapon that will enable them to finish the event with minimal practice beforehand.
The Shake Rattle & Ride 70 team consists of veteran riders all aged over 70 who say they are 'in the groove and on the move' at 70 and are looking for relief from the shaking and devastation that Christchurch has been subject to in the last 18 months.
The Air Force Ohakea Corporate team of six from the Ohakea base is riding to celebrate 75 years of the RNZAF and WOW, or Women of Wanaka Team say they are five wicked women of Wanaka winding their way to Wellington.
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