Rotorua ready for action-packed criterium

The Novotel Lakeside Rotorua City Street Crit will bring this fast and exciting format right into the heart of town on Sunday February 10 as part of the Rotorua Bike Festival.

It's a style of racing riders really enjoy.Olympic medalist and professional bike racer, Sam Bewley is one of them.

"The circuit they have looks awesome and I think a big crowd will be attracted," says the Orica-Green Edge rider. "Well, it should be a big crowd as it's amazing to watch these races in the city centre!"

Bewley is from Rotorua and cut his competitive teeth, racing mountain bikes in the renowned Whakarewarewa trail network, south of Rotorua, before moving to the track and road.

He was looking forward to racing at the Crit. However, his team has called him up to race at the Tour of Qatar, another big step in his already stellar career.

"I've never really raced on the road in Rotorua and would've loved to put a show on for the local crowds," adds Bewley, with his trademark grin, as he prepared to head overseas and anothergruellingrace schedule. "I'd have been motivated to win too, so, hopefully it'll continue next year and I'll be able to race."

For Peter Clark of Cycling Rotorua, the club organizing the Street Crit, the race is very special even without the Bewley firepower.

Clark expects an entry list of around 250.

"This sort of racing on a short kilometre-long course is amazing," says Clark. "Spectators get the opportunity to view the riders up close every 90 seconds and appreciate the speed and intensity of the event,"

The Rotorua Inner City Crit will be even more intense than most.

"The course is very physical with road humps, a roundabout with cobblestones, a 'hotdog' U turn just beforethe finish and four 90 degree corners on the circuit," continues Clark, "and all at over 40 kilometres an hour."

Riders with a high skill level or risk takers will certainly have the edge as they race through Eat Streat, Rotorua's restaurant precinct, with diners just an arm's length from the action.

It isn't for the faint-hearted, but it's not only for top riders.

"We have a category for riders without race licenses and novices or locals who would just like to have a go," says Clark. "For our club, it's all about showcasing road cycling and letting people have a go."

Cycling Rotorua is also running a Points Trophy for local clubs in the Bay of Plenty/Waikato region. Riders from the Taupo, Tauranga, Whakatane, Opotiki and Tokoroa Clubs are all expected to race.

The Rotorua Bike Festival Parade will follow the Street Crit, starting outside the Novotel at 5.30PM.

The Street Criterium and Bike Parade is just one of a long list of events on the Festival programme.

Brand new events like the Agroventures Shweeb World Champs , the Skyline Sprint Warrior, More FM BikeExpoand Giant 2W Gravity Enduro also feature on the schedule.

There will be fun rides for the kids and social rides for the grown-ups. The Redwoods Coast , Hard Court Bike Polo and Mountain Bike Adventure Quest Orienteering are also in the mix.

The second weekend of the Festival will feature the BMX Rotorua National Qualifiers.

BikeNZ's high performance Olympic squad of London silver medalist, Sarah Walker, Marc Willers and Kurt Pickard will all be there. The Rotovegas Jumps Jam will take the action into the twilight with spectacular action.

Meanwhile, out in Rotorua's world-renowned trail network in the Whakarewarewa ForestNew Zealand's elite cross-country and downhill racers, like Anton Cooper , Karen Hanlen, Dirk Peters, Sam Blenkinsop, Brook MacDonald and Louis Hamilton will compete for 2013 titles at the Mountain Bike National Championships .

The full programme for the 1st Rotorua Bike Festival is on the website: www.rotoruabikefestival.com