Riders eye milestone victory in 25th Le Race

Photo: Golden Homes Le Race
Photo: Golden Homes Le Race
The cycling community will be celebrating a special milestone on Saturday when 600 riders line up for the 25th edition of the Golden Homes Le Race.

Since its inception in 1999, the 100km race from Cathedral Square to Akaroa has featured big names in the sport, as well as some of the most eccentric weekend warriors.

The tough climbs over Dyers Pass, Gebbies Pass, Hilltop and the Summit Rd over the years have attracted some top fields, and the Hall of Fame includes a long list of world champions, Olympic medallists and Commonwealth Games winners like Brian Fowler, Hayden Roulston and Kate McIlroy.

Some of those competed in the heyday of their careers, while other young talents used Le Race as a stepping stone to a professional career on the cycling world tour.

“Those names are a great reflection of the high regard Le Race is held in cycling circles,” said race organiser Sheree Stevens.

“It has been wonderful so see those same young kids we first met at the starting line in Cathedral Square later pop up on the podium in Europe or the US, and of course makes us incredibly proud.” 

This year’s field will include defending champions Sharlotte Lucas and Jonty Harris, as well as previous two-time winner Daniel Whitehouse and Australian-turned-Kiwi pro rider Matilda Raynolds. 

Stevens said her event has faced the same challenges as other sports events in recent years and Le Race was virtually on life support after the double cancellation in 2020 and 2022 due to the pandemic.

“Other events organisers may have pulled the pin, but this is such a special race and we just love our cycling community too much to let this amazing event die a quiet death. Not on my watch,” said Stevens, who adds that increased competition from other events, notably mountain-bike competitions, has also challenged the viability of the road race.

The race also conflicts with Sail GP in Lyttelton on this weekend.

Stevens is grateful for the New Zealand community for reciprocating her commitment to Le Race by again signing up in large numbers for the gruelling climbs over the Port Hills. 

“That’s what keeps us all coming back, their love for this special event. And the big smiles on everyone’s faces when they share their battle stories over a beer in Akaroa.”