On Saturday night we were treated to a sneak preview of what to expect when the UCI Juniors World Track Championships start at Stadium Southland Velodrome in a little over a week.
The New Zealand and South Africa Worlds’ squads both fronted up to contest our Curtain-Raiser Race Night on Saturday and they duly put on a great show.
Hosting these world championships has been a four year process, dating back to the decision in 2008 to bid for hosting rights. To now be in the final straight is hugely exciting and Saturday’s event gave us all the chance to test drive our set-up and systems for the worlds as well as providing the opportunity for the New Zealanders to get some race simulation in to their build up.
I watched their morning training session which they treated as a mock qualifying session. The Men’s and Women’s Team Sprints and Team Pursuits both prepared as they would for next Wednesday’s opening session, before riding the Curtain-Raiser like a final.
The signs are very good. There are some tough selection decisions that will have to be made over the next few days and the competition but supportive environment that has been developed within the squad is a credit to the management team and gives the squad the best chance possible to recreate and exceed the success of last year’s record World Championship return.
Our velodrome is a truly spectacular facility, but to see it decked out, ready for the finishing touches this week for the world championships is something else again.
We could not be happier with the level of support we have received from all sections of the community. In typical Southland fashion our phone has been running hot with offers of assistance and enquiries from all sorts of organizations and individuals just keen to help and contribute in some way. The enquiry we are receiving from international media is also hugely pleasing. Each year we like to think we profile Southland like no other event with the profile the PowerNet Tour of Southland receives. Next week the world will be watching, with an international broadcast package, designed to firmly put Invercargill and Southland in front of the cycling world.
So what happens this week? We’ll be in more Southland secondary schools all week long and at the Eastern Suburbs and Brewers Elbow bars on Wednesday and Thursday night respectively, with our Roller Racing. The bulk of the international team arrive this week, team trainings will be in full swing out of the track, final set-up of the velodrome will be completed, opening ceremonies and medal presentation rehearsals will be held and, with a bit of luck, we’ll move the last of our remaining tickets.
I suspect it will be both the longest and shortest week of our lives. But by this time this week, we will be ready to watch the world’s best juniors take to our velodrome. The pipe dream of four years ago is about to become reality.
Nick Jeffrey is Chief Executive of Cycling Southland.