Southland is set to become a booming international tourist destination this August, with teams from at least 18 different countries already confirming they will be booking flights to the deep south of New Zealand.
With just over four weeks remaining before final entries need to be confirmed, cycling powerhouses such as France, Belgium, Great Britain, Russia and Australia will each send teams of varying sizes to the UCI Juniors Track World Championships to be held at Invercargill's Stadium Southland Velodrome from August 22-26.
BikeNZ High Performance director Mark Elliott said the international visitors can expect to be met by a staunch New Zealand challenge from the 16-strong team, in a familiar environment and in front of a vocal Kiwi crowd.
“Doing things in an environment that is not foreign to you is always an advantage. We find that a lot of the international teams really struggle to travel to the other side of the world. It’s something that Kiwis and Australians don’t even think twice about but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to cope that well coming the other way,” said Elliott.
“What we have also been able to do with the event being held in New Zealand is give some young kids the chance to be in the Junior World’s environment, which if it were on the other side of the world we may not have been able to afford to do. They will then be able to take that experience into next year and continue to raise the bar at the junior level.”
Home country New Zealand and last year's world championship host Russia will both field capacity squads of 16 with Australia confirming a 14-strong team of Junior Cyclones, including four defending world champions.
The European Junior Track Championships are being held in Portugal this week with a number of other countries likely to confirm final numbers for their involvement in the championships in the coming weeks.
Confirmed teams to date include: Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Belgium, Argentina, Great Britain, Belarus, Liberia, France, Russia, Armenia, India, Japan, Switzerland, Netherlands and New Zealand.
Provisionally confirmed teams include: USA, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Lithuania, Hong Kong, Italy and Germany.