“With gravel racing taking off around the world it’s no surprise to hear that New Zealand’s premier one-day cycling race, the UCI 1.2 Gravel and Tar Classic along with the women’s UCI 1.2 Gravel and Tar La Femme plus their cyclosport challenge for amateurs, the Slicks and Stones 100, are back again for 2020 bigger and better than ever.” – Gravel and Tar
With twelve men’s teams in this year’s Classic and eight women’s teams in the La Femme, the 2019 professional races lived up to their name as being the hardest one-day races in Australasia. Winners this year were Luke Mudgway (EvoPRO racing) and Brodie Chapman (Team Tibco) – and recent winner of the inaugural SBT GRVL race in Colorado. Interviewed at the finish line, Brodie commented, “That’s the most fun I’ve had on a bike in one day – ever!” And she called that, “fun”?
Video from the 2019 Event
Classic – Men’s
Importantly, the Gravel and Tar La Femme, paid equal prize money with the men – one of the first events in the cycling world to do so. “Our race is leading the development of professionalism in women’s cycling,” said Greasy Chain Charitable Trust (organisers of the events) Chair, Steve Stannard.
Next year’s iteration of the events, being held on the 25th Jan 2020 will once again traverse the undulating back roads of the Manawatu region of New Zealand with its stunning New Zealand scenery between the town of Feilding and the city of Palmerston North in the Manawatū.
The course, slightly lengthened from 2019, will be approx. 140 kms, containing five gravel sections totalling 40kms. In addition to the mix of gravel and tar-sealed roads in the parcours, there’s a brutal part towards the end of the race where the riders have to actually traverse a working gravel pit where road gravel is mined and crushed on a daily basis! The riders also climb some 1545m and have two torturous descents down a long gravel road that tests the best bike handlers to the limit. So you can see that their reputation as the “hardest one-day races in Australasia” is well earned.
Now for 2020, the organisers have already received interest from 16 professional teams for the Gravel and Tar events. And they’re coming from places such as Ireland, Sweden, Japan, Malaysia and Australia. So now in its fifth year, the Gravel and Tar’s reputation means that it is attracting a range of high-quality international teams and riders, reflecting the worldwide interest in races with varying parcours, but also because of the friendly hosting the visitors are being given in the Manawatu region of New Zealand.
Palmerston North City Council (one of the local host councils) is again partnering with event organisers for 2020. Sacha Haskell, General Manager, Marketing and Communications agreed that the events all have the potential to grow into becoming internationally renowned. “Having UCI status for both the men’s and women’s races means the arduous course will attract top national and international riders – and we want to help make this local event become a highlight on the national and indeed, international, sports calendar. Plus the Slicks and Stones 100 gives amateur riders a chance to test their skills in a challenging and picturesque setting.”
For the Slicks and Stones riders this year, there was just as much fun as the pros had. Run over approx. 100kms and covering the same 40 kms of gravel as the pro events, 49 intrepid riders started. The quality of the field can be gauged by the fact that 44 of the 49 completed the event, with the first over the line, Brendan Sharratt (Wanganui) completing the distance at an average of 34.8 km/h. He was closely followed by Carlos Lopez-Lozano (Palmerston North) and Andrew Pointon.
A participant in this year’s Slicks and Stones commented afterwards that the event was excellent with a fantastic group of riders who were friendly and helpful. While he admitted to losing “some skin and a bit of pride”, he enjoyed the event immensely and looks forward to returning in 2020.
Many entrants made the same comment and are spreading the word and expect that the Slicks and Stones will grow into a much larger and renowned event. In 2020 along with the Gravel and Tar events, it’s being held on Saturday 25th January.
2020 Slicks and Stone Promo Video
If you’re not an elite/pro male or female rider you can still challenge yourself on the beautiful paved and unpaved roads around Palmerston North (Manawatu) with the Slicks and Stones 100 challenge – 100km of undulating hills and gravel sections just like the pros. 25th January 2020 is the date to remember, plan your holidays and get your entries in now, then experience the great gravel cycling and hospitality on offer in the Manawatu. Happy Gravelling!