The start of this week's 33rd New Zealand Cycle Classic in Masterton had a sombre start, with local duo and keen cyclists Darren and Joshua Southon remembered.
The pair died earlier this week in a diving accident and were remembered in an honorary ride to start proceedings yesterday.
"Darren rode in a team I managed this year, and have done the last couple of years and he’s been a big part of the club," Wairarapa cyclist Mark Langlands told 1 NEWS.
"They'll both definitely be in my thoughts this week."
As far as the event goes, the New Zealand Cycle Classic has this year attracted possibly its strongest ever field, with local and international riders turning out.
Defending champion Aaron Gate will be one, competing with new side - the recently formed Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy.
"By far the strongest field in any edition I've ever done so it's going to be some exciting racing," Gate told 1 NEWS.
"I hope it's the first of many successful weeks with the team. We just have to get stuck in now and see what we can do. I think the guys are all motivated and ready to make a good impression in our first outing."
Australian Marcus Culey another, fresh off a third placed finish at the Australian Road Championships is competing with Team Sapura.
"I think the standard of the race will be quite good this week," he says.
"There's quite a few teams that have got strong squads so it'll be interesting to see how we compare."
The Classic is New Zealand's only UCI sanctioned race, hoping for a strong showing to attract more international stars in the future.