The cycling year has begun and what a frenetic start it has been. Cycling Southland’s ILT New Year Cycling Series featured the country’s elite cyclists lining up alongside local Club and representative riders in road, track and criterium racing and BikeNZ’s High Performance programme hosted its largest ever track training camp – 31 riders in total were smashed by their coaches on a daily basis at the ILT Velodrome. Throw in Saturday’s headlines regarding SPARC’s proposal to site a National Cycling Centre somewhere in the country, this week’s upcoming Southland Track Champs, our hosting of the National Champs from late next month and the small matter of planning for the year ahead and Junior Worlds next year ... let’s just say we have found enough to keep us busy over the last couple of weeks.
Brilliant news came out of the Beijing World Cup over the weekend. Tom Scully’s international comeback is complete with his fourth place finish in the Omnium. There are no easy events at that level but the Omnium is one of the most demanding - six events contested over two days for which riders earn points which are totalled at the end to decide the winner. Our boy “Scud” was ultra-consistent with five top-10 finishes, including a win in the Elimination Race.
His faultless and focused return from what could (and possibly should) have been a crippling injury was unquestionably one of the sporting comebacks of 2010. From the moment Tom wrapped his leg around an Irish power pole in the middle of last year, he set his sights on getting back to competing on the international scene. To see all his hard work, determination and will pay off over the weekend was outstanding. It would also be remiss not to mention a top Northern Southland lad by the name of Mark Hollands, who is the unsung hero of the Scully comeback. His watchful eye and guidance during Tom’s rehabilitation played a massive part in its success. Their combined efforts mean one of the south’s true sporting champions is ready to rip in to his biggest year ever.
Off the bike, yesterday a Sunday newspaper reported that eight centres have expressed an interest in hosting a National Cycling Centre of Excellence. While the process, the politics and the possible outcomes could fill any number of columns, one thing has been made abundantly clear to me. The foresight of those involved in designing and building the ILT Velodrome last decade cannot be overstated. Southland would not be able to afford to build the quality facility we can now all enjoy, were the concept being floated for the first time today. No matter what decision SPARC makes, or how many velodromes are built around the countryside, thanks to that visionary group, Southlanders will always have something world class at our back door. Then it’s over to us to make sure that even if we don’t have the country’s only indoor velodrome, we continue to have the best one.
Nick Jeffrey is the Chief Executive of Cycling Southland