One of the blessings of working at Cycling Southland over the last three years is the fact that I get to witness outstanding performances first hand across over the myriad of events we deliver in the deep south.
I watched world records fall at Junior World Track Champs on Stadium Southland Velodrome. I was there last Easter when Eddie Dawkins stood on a world championship podium in Melbourne and broke through the 10 second barrier in the Men's Sprint. I've seen Southlanders lift the coveted National Points Shield after four Track Cycling Nationals. I was on the finish line as Josh Haggerty, Matt Zenovich, Erin Criglington and Sophie Williamson won road race national titles this year and I was in the same spot over three outstanding Tour of Southland finishes, including watching a youthful PowerNet team featuring Southlanders Tom Scully and Cam Karwowski, expertly defend Josh Atkins' tour lead in 2011. See why I feel privileged?
There are, of course, literally dozens of other worthy performances I could add to this short-list but even given all that, I'm not stretching the truth at all when I say one of my favourite annual events is ready to roll - the WHK Corporate Pursuit.
No event captures all that Cycling Southland tries to be as an organisation like this one. It introduces more people to track cycling than any other during the year, passing on the cycling bug to a new intake every 12 months.
It provides a great social atmosphere, with plenty of inter-team banter throughout the six week build up and on race days and its success is built on our team of volunteer coaches and officials guiding our teams in to well-oiled pursuit combinations, exceeding their own expectations by going faster than they could have imagined. It should also be noted that it's a fairly decent talent identification programme with Cherie Champion (Southland District Council), Brett Roulston (Calder Stewart) and Brendon Akeroyd (Stonewood Homes) among others, all lining up at the Age Group Track Championships in March after starring in last year's pursuit.
This year, 29 teams will be put through their paces in early August along with our all new Corporate Roller Racing Challenge, where the teams will compete for great prizes each week during the competition build-up thanks to Lone Star and Speights and we're delighted to have great cycling supporters like H&J's Outdoor World on-board, along with our outstanding new event sponsor WHK.
Try picking a winner from this list; Amalgamated Builders, AWS Legal, BNZ, EIS Group, Environment Southland, Fonterra, Harrex Group, HW Richardson, IFS Growth Ltd, Invercargill Licensing Trust, McIntyre Dick & Partners, Mitre 10 Mega, NZ Fire Service (two teams), NZ Police, Opus International, PowerNet, Preston Russell Law, Ricoh, SBS Bank, Southern District Health Board, SouthPort, Speights Ale House, The Radio Network, Westpac, WHK, Waihopai Health Services, Whyte's Gravel Supplies and YMCA.
Even if the winners aren't a sure bet, having a lot of fun sure is. So let's get into it!
Nick Jeffrey is Chief Executive at Cycling Southland