Date: Friday, 07 February 2014
Posted by: Cycling Southland

Steph McKenzieNew Zealand sprinter Steph McKenzie is one of the last members of the elite cycling exodus from Invercargill to Cambridge, but she isn't turning her back on Southland.

The 20-year-old has spent the past three years based at what is now the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome, having moved south from Auckland as a teenager.

While the BikeNZ elite programme is now based at a new velodrome near Hamilton, McKenzie will ride for Southland at next month's national track championships at the same venue.

She'll team up with 2012 Olympian Natasha Hansen in the team sprint, and will push for a place in the New Zealand team for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, although the programme there is limited to the 500m time trial and individual sprints for women.

"Hopefully I can make the team for Comm Games, it gets named after nationals. This is our first opportunity, all females, to go to a Commonwealth Games and show what we've been doing with minimal support ... and just show them that we still have potential. I find that motivating for training."

McKenzie said she had enjoyed her time in the south and would miss the connections she had made.

"I remember 2011 was my first nationals [in Invercargill], but I'd been based down here for a little bit beforehand. It's gone way too fast. I've definitely enjoy every little bit down here. Coming from West Auckland, it just felt like I fitted straight in, it was relaxed, stress-free and an awesome community," McKenzie said.

Being closer to her family and her non-cycling friends in Auckland was a positive from the move north.

McKenzie will be boarding with a family and plans to get a job to help meet people in Cambridge.

She's also excited about working alongside the elite rowing and triathlon programmes based there.

"They've made it a good environment already, so it feels like we'll be going into a good environment. It's already an athlete town," she said.

"It will be exciting to have that support from other athletes. I want to show interest in other sports, so hopefully we get that back."

Story and photo courtesy The Southland Times

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