In 1903, the Tour de France got its start. In 2012, it’s New Zealand’s turn? It sure is.
France got its tour in a bid to sell newspapers. New Zealand gets its tour in a much less cynical attempt to get bikes rolling along the New Zealand Cycle Trail. Organizers hope that the Tour will generate interest in riding and bring economic benefit to the local communities along the routes. It’s an amateur race, so no worries if you’re slow. You pick your own support crew and decide between the islands for the route you’ll follow. The South Island route will take you from Bluff to Picton. The North Island route starts at Cape Reinga and finishes in Masterton. On Day 8, riders will converge on Wellington for the Beehive Criterium. Plus, you don’t even have to ride the whole race. You can choose among the stages if you can’t get away for a full 8-day adventure.
Entries are now open and here’s the best part. Three national charities near and dear to cyclists’ hearts were selected to receive the fruits of all Tour of New Zealand fundraising: St. John, Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the Hikurangi Foundation. Even if you can’t ride, maybe you’ll get some vicarious pleasure by sponsoring a team? For example, 100 percent of the donations to the Hikurangi Team will go toward cycling and other smart-transport projects. Yeah, you know that’s a good thing.
The ride starts on 14 April. Put some air in the tyres and get going. Or just give money to support the charities identified. There are also volunteer opportunities along the route if you’re keen to be a part without doing too much of the heavy lifting.
After the first Tour de France, plans for the second called it the Last Tour. And maybe that’s why everyone clamored for a third. Who knows what will follow the first Tour of New Zealand. You better do this first one, just in case.