Some Reminiscences of the Tour

Ian Gray – Founder of the Tour in 1974

The Open Novice Tour of the Manawatu commenced in 1974 to inspire young U17 riders to compete in a major Open Tour. At that particular time the Palmerston North Amateur Road Cycling Club was putting all its effort and a large amount of money into running a three-day Tour of the Manawatu for senior riders. After much lobbing I managed to convince the club that they should also promote a tour for young riders so that could be encouraged to learn and experience Tour racing riding in bunches.

The first eight tours were sponsored by Glaxo when they were still a NZ company situated in Palmerston North. In 1974 they had just developed for the market that wonderful meal replacer Complan, which is still available today and has been used successfully by cyclists over the years. The tour was called “The Glaxo Complan Colts Tour of the Manawatu”. The field in those days was limited to thirty five riders, the logic being that a bunch of that size was large enough for young riders to ride safely in. No girls rode in those early tours. Later on, when a few girls started racing they were required to race with the boys. When girls racing became much more popular this enabled them to have their own separate tour from 2002.

In the early years the tour was run on the same weekend as the National Secondary Schools Sir Bernard Fergusson Teams Time Trials run at Levin on Saturday. Later on when the schools Time Trial event was expanded to include a road race on the Sunday this clashed with the Manawatu Tour, giving riders a choice, but the tour proved to be more popular.

The first Novice Tour in 1974 was convincingly won by Eric Mackenzie of Kawerau. Eric went on to become a very successful all round rider winning several National Track titles as well as winning The Tour of Southland, 2nd in the Tour of Manawatu and 4th in the Dulux 6 day (Auckland to Wellinton) in 1979. Eric rode successfully as a professional in Europe winning 17 races in Belgium in 1981. This record enabled him to get a pro contract during which he rode the Tour de France four times, winning a 3rd stage placing in 1983, and also achieving twelve top 10 stages finishes in those four tours.

Over the years the Novice Tour has given great experience to young riders many who have won the tour and then gone one to become well recognized riders by winning national and international events. These riders include Westley and Regan Gough, Jeremy Yates (winner of the Junior Wolds Road Title), Shane Archibald, Catherine Cheatley (nee Sell) Lee Vertongen and Gary Anderson (First NZ rider to win an Olympic Medal). Greg Henderson who finished second in 1992 who went on to ride successfully as a professional in Europe, came to be one of the best lead out sprint rider in the top tours, has just recently retired from top racing.

The Tour over the years has been successfully supported by major sponsors firstly from local companies who owners have been closely associated with the club, as well as some national companies. These include T Market Fresh, in 1989 whose owner Monty Hollows gave great support to Manawatu cycling for over 50 years, Pedal Pushers Cyclery when jointly owned by Gary Buys and Ian Gray; Rose City Real Estate (run by Max Vertongen), Electropower, NZ Post, Avanti and Mitre 10. We should not forget the huge number of small sponsors that have given invaluable support over the years as well as the trophy donors.

Since the tour began in 1974 only five Manawatu riders have won the tour. Aaron Kibblewhite in 1989 (who later represented NZ at the Junior World Track Champs) and Lee Vertongen in 1991. Lee became one of our best ever Manawatu riders who represented NZ many times including World Junior Track Champs, Commonwealth Games and still holds the NZ hour record on the track of 50.23 km set on the new board track at Wanganui in 1997. In the modern era Campbell Stewart and Michaela Drummond became tour winners in 2013 and 2015 respectively, both became Junior World Track Champions. Robert Stannard was the fifth Manawatu rider to win the tour in 2015. Andrew Burnett who won the KOM title in 1989 (and also 2nd on GC the same year) while Sjoerd van Wagtendonk (2008) Robert Stannard (2013) and Chris Denholm (2013) are the only other Manawatu winners in the hill climb category.

The 40th Anniversary Tour in 2013 was a milestone in the events history when it was expanded to include multiple grades from under 13 to under 19 years grades run in 4 stages over 2 days, instead of 4 stages in one day.
What has been really great about this tour over the years has been its excellent management and the many volunteers who have enthusiastically given their time to help run the tour, and this particularly includes the young riders who had previously ridden the tour, who loved being in the mechanics wagons helping and giving advice to the riders.
I would like to give encouragement and good luck to all riders completing in the 45th Novice Tour this year. Do your best and enjoy it!

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