Fresh from its greatest-ever medal haul at a Commonwealth Games, the New Zealand Elite track cycling team is descending on the south for the ILT International Festival of Speed.
Headlined by Dunedin-based Alison Shanks, who pedaled her way to glory in the women’s individual pursuit to secure New Zealand’s first gold in Delhi last month, the field will include fellow medalists Lauren Ellis, Jesse Sergent, Simon van Velthooven, Sam Webster and Southland’s-own Eddie Dawkins, along with the rest of the silver medal-winning men’s pursuit and sprint teams.
Hailed as New Zealand verses the rest of the world, the kiwi contingent will be joined by an impressive field of riders from around the globe at the December 7-9 event.
Cycling Southland chief executive Nick Jeffrey said he expected to unveil the talent on display over the next week.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy working on some top-shelf international cyclists – it’s an exciting line-up,” he said. “BikeNZ’s support has been crucial and to have 10 Kiwi medal-winners in action alongside those riders from around the country nipping at their heels will make for three outstanding nights.”
“Our aim is to deliver some of the world’s fastest racing in a world-class facility with an out of this world atmosphere.”
Nationally, the sport was on a high following our best ever Commonwealth Games track campaign.
“On an international level New Zealand is now a track cycling powerhouse,” Jeffrey said.
“We’re fortunate enough to have the only indoor cycling venue in the county in the ILT Velodrome so that means Invercargill should be on the world track cycling map and that’s what this event is all about.
“The ILT International Festival of Speed is a really important landmark for us given the international contacts we’ve made through the lead-up and it’s a vital step towards our hosting the UCI World Juniors Track Cycling Championships in 2012.”
The cycling spectacular will also incorporate the New Zealand Madison Championships on the opening night which was “unquestionably one of the most action-packed cycling races you would ever want to see”. The night’s racing schedule also includes a Record-Breaker option where selected riders will line up to break national records with cash incentives for those successful.
Together with supporting the festival itself, the Invercargill Licensing Trust and the ILT Foundation has approved funding of $32,500 and $175,000 respectively for Cycling Southland to assist with general operating costs and hosting both the 2011 New Zealand and Oceania championships.
“The wonderful thing for our organisation, like so many other community and sporting groups in Invercargill, is that the support from the ILT and the ILT Foundation doesn’t just stop when the name goes up on the side of the building,” Jeffrey said.
“They are the reason we’re able to host events of this calibre and continue to be the lifeblood of our organisation from both an event and a day-to-day operational perspective.”
ILT Foundation and Invercargill Licensing Trust chairman Alan Dennis said the festival was an extremely popular addition to the sporting calendar for both riders and the public alike.
“Track cycling certainly unleashes an adrenalin rush – and that’s just as a spectator,” he said. “It’s fantastic for Invercargill to once again host riders of such high international standard. The flow-on effects from events like this are invaluable to our city.”
Jeffrey said a real focus was to create a “full-blown spectacle” for the public, which included celebrity races, pre and post race entertainment and the chance for every ticket holder to enter the draw to win a weekend trip to the Santos Tour Down Under in Adelaide in January – notable in 2011 as Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong’s last professional race.
Tickets to the ILT Festival of Speed are available now from Stadium Southland and cost $10 adult, $5 student and $20 for a family pass with discounts for bulk purchases and three-night passes.
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