Sue Cronin (L) and Vicki Crosbie cross the finish line - Pukekohe is best known for its V8 race cars and onions. Sitting in the heart of New Zealand’s richest horticultural land, it was natural the traditional goodie bags for entrants in the inaugural Counties Cycle Classic would be stuffed with local produce!
Riders of all ages took part. Jaime Sanderson in the Juniors
When he heard the club needed stuff to give away he just asked “How many bags?”
The idea of running a bike race came from Graham Russell who spent his working life growing and exporting Pukekohe vegetables.  His children gave him a road bike for his 65th birthday and he hasn’t looked back.
The Rotary Club of Pukekohe traditionally has raised most of its funds through an annual golf tournament, and book sale. With proceeds from the book sale shrinking Graham knew the club needed a new venture, and having just competed in the Taupo Cycle Challenge, he thought “Why not?”
But getting from concept to event was a massive undertaking, involving a huge learning curve and Graham freely admits if he’d known how complicated it would be, he’d never have started. 
Graham ended up working pretty much full time on the project for a solid 10 months, visiting every bike shop between Auckland and Hamilton and stuffing thousands of fliers under car wiper blades at cycling events.
He set up a small team of Rotarians who designed courses, found sponsors, created advertisements, prepared a Health and Safety plan, commissioned traffic management and registration/timing, did all the paperwork required to get a council permit allowing it all to happen, and the myriad of other details that go into running a major event, including designing a website: .
On the day just about every member of the club turned out to handle registrations, take last minute entries and marshal the riders round the courses. “A fantastic team effort” says Graham.  “It was great to see people enjoying themselves and taking part in a healthy outdoor activity”
Nearly 200 riders signed up for the four options on offer, the toughest being an 88km ride, and it all went remarkably smoothly.  Rides started and finished at the local Intermediate School where the Principal just happens to be a club member. 
Next year the plan is to start and finish with a lap around the V8 racecourse to get totally in synch with Pukekohe.
And all those bags of vegetables? There were so many left after the goodie bags were filled that they formed a large part of the prize table, and when all the main prizes had been awarded and everyone was invited to “help themselves” not a single bag of spuds, carrots or onions remained.