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Cyclists Head to New Zealand for Special Tour

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An inaugural New Zealand cycling event has stirred international interest with hundreds of cycling enthusiasts signing up for the unique eight-day cycling adventure next month.

Tour of New Zealand - which begins on 14 April 2012 - offers cyclists of all abilities the chance to participate at their own level whether thatís on a leisurely tour or competing with the best as they travel a dream route across some iconic New Zealand landscapes.

The 700-kilometre journey will start simultaneously at both ends of New Zealand, and finishes for both fields at the mid-point with a ride around Parliament Buildings - the seat of government in the capital city, Wellington.

Both routes pass through diverse landscapes including the South Islandís alpine destinations of Queenstown, Wanaka and Lake Tekapo, and the central North Islandís distinctive Waitomo limestone country, active volcanic and world heritage conservation areas, and will be played out on some of New Zealandís best country roads.

The entrants represent a wide variety of cyclists, and spokesman, Simon Yarrell, is keen to point out that the event is not only about speed and competition.

Teams or individuals can choose to begin at either Cape Te Reinga, on the top of the North Island, or at Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island.

Individual participants are only required to do one stage to be part of the event. They can also choose whether to speed with the serious racers or dawdle their way checking out "the most amazing backdrop for cycling," Yarrell said.

Teams must field up to five cyclists on each stage but substitute riders are permitted at any stage as the goal is to get the team colours to Wellington.

"Some are being quite competitive - like the Christchurch Boysí High Team led by professional mountain-cyclist Anton Cooper, but for most itís about the challenge to complete one day or one stage of the journey. Itís based on fun, fitness, and supporting community organisations," Yarrell added.

Pure New Zealand

The touring routes takes riders through a range of New Zealand scenery and country towns with stops at iconic spots for diversions off the bike.

In the South Island, cyclists will pedal past mountains and farmland, conquer high country passes, and glimpse the iridescent blues of the Southern Lakes. The North Island route swoops through ancient kauri forests, beside northern beaches, across the volcanic heartland, and the Whanganui River via kilometres of remote native bush.

The race timetable allows for three to six hours cycling each morning with free time in the afternoons and evenings for exploring the destinations, meeting the locals and enjoying the Kiwi hospitality experience.

On the eighth day, the riders will meet for a head-to-head criterium in the grounds of Wellingtonís iconic Beehive to decide the winners in each category. This final blast around the 1.5km criterium course will start and finish on the steps of Parliament, under the watchful bronze eyes of past prime ministers.

Tourism New Zealandís Brand and International PR General Manager Catherine Bates says the Tour of New Zealand is an opportunity to showcase some of the best road cycling routes that could be part of a cycling holiday. "We know that many potential travellers show a special interest in cycling. Itís an activity that has potential for growth and offers a compelling reason for international visitors to come to New Zealand," said Ms. Bates.

Bates says that the international media teams will have the opportunity to experience both the North Island and South Island stages of the tour - to fully sample New Zealandís diversity of landscapes.

The tour will raise funds for the Hikurangi Foundation, Red Cross and St John. The latter two organisations had their coffers substantially emptied as a result of rescue efforts after Christchurchís February 2011 earthquake.

Tour of NZ Routes and Daily Stages

North Island Tour
Day 1: Cape Reinga to Kaitaia (111km)
Day 2: Opononi to Dargaville (79km)
Day 3: Dargaville to Brynderwyn (70km)
Day 4: Tuakau to Raglan (84km)
Day 5: Waitomo Caves to Taumaranui (102km)
Day 6: National Park to Wanganui (113km)
Day 7: Pahiatua to Masterton (74km)
Day 8: The Beehive Criterium, Wellington

South Island Tour
Day 1: Bluff to Mossburn (139km)
Day 2: Queenstown to Wanaka (76km)
Day 3: Wanaka to Omarama (113km)
Day 4: Tekapo to Geraldine (88km)
Day 5: Methven to Oxford (80km)
Day 6: Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura (126km)
Day 7: Blenheim to Picton (65km)
Day 8: The Beehive Criterium, Wellington

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