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RIDE NZ Cycling Festival kicks off in Cambridge in unique way

Multiple world cycling champion Jim McMurray is developing a talent for spotting unique places for people to race their bikes.

In 2020, it was the tarmac at the Hamilton Airport and this year it was a 1km circuit outside one of the biggest factories being constructed in the Waikato.

“I remember driving on the Waikato Expressway and looking at the APL factory, thinking, that would be a great place to race.”

On Thursday night, McMurray’s wish came true as the RIDE New Zealand Cycling Festival held its 2021 Opening Night Criterium at the Architectural Profiles Ltd factory, near Cambridge.

The RIDE festival, now in its second year, has multiple events for recreational or club riders, through to the country’s elite riders, from February 11-14, all based in the Waipā district.

McMurray, from Tīrau, is on the RIDE committee and was also among the competitors racing outside the 400m-long and 100m-wide APL factory.

Just before the first races started, McMurray expected the turns at either end of the course to be the challenge for riders.

“A fit rider will accelerate hard away from the corner. The surface is so smooth but that will make the racing faster and more challenging.”

McMurray is a multiple world champion in time trial and World Masters cycling. He planned to race in the B-grade category at the criterium as well as the Gran Fondo event of the festival on Saturday.

“Criterium racing around the world is huge where you will get a town that shuts down the roads for the race.

“But in New Zealand we don’t have enough numbers and the desire is not high enough to do that so to get a venue like this and like at the airport last year, where you don’t have to worry about traffic management, is ideal.”

There were about 100 cyclists who entered in various grades for the criterium.

“We added an under-15s age group this year for the first time, and we’ve got grades D through to A, with prize money across all grades for men and women.”

McMurray said Cycling New Zealand ran the races on Thursday evening, which took the pressure off the RIDE volunteers who were working to set up the venue.

“We’ve got five days of racing ahead of us, so it’s going to be a busy schedule. We’ve got everyone here from the RIDE committee, about 14-15 members.”

New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth cyclists Aaron gate and Georgia Williams were interviewed midway through the evening event, to give people an insight into the careers and upcoming goals.

Williams was back in the spotlight on Friday, when the RIDE festival moved on to the Elite Road National Championships Time Trial event, which was hosted by Roto-o-Rangi School, near Cambridge.

Williams won the women’s time trial for the third time in her career.

The BikeExchange rider was 21.6 seconds faster than Tokyo Olympic-bound track cyclist Jamie Nielsen through the 27.6 kilometre course, to post a winning time of 38 min 46.58 sec.

In other events run as part of the festival, the Women’s and Men’s U19 Road Races will start and finish at Cambridge High School on Saturday and so will the Elite Women’s and Men’s Road Races on Sunday.

The cycling festival’s “Gran Fondo” which loosely translated means “the big challenge” will involve 18km, 67km and 103km races in rural Cambridge on February 13, open to riders of all ages and levels.

Entries for this event had moved up from 400 in 2020 to 700 this year and there were about 280 elite riders expect to contest the road races on Sunday.

Article extracted from The Waikato Times