From The Southland Times
Photo by BARRY HARCOURT/Southland Times TRAINING SESSION: New Zealand track sprinter Eddie Dawkins winds it up behind coach Nick Harris at the ILT Velodrome yesterday.
It's a perfect Southland winter's day.
Some might sneer at the concept, but post-frost the sky is so clear and blue it revives the spirit and makes anything seem possible.
The air is crisper than the very best Central Otago apple.
It leaves rose blooms on your cheeks and scrubs the lungs clean. It's impossible not to feel alive on a day like this.
But inside Invercargill's ILT Velodrome there are two cyclists dreaming of a landscape which couldn't be any different if you were trying to describe the moon.
It might be five months away, but the Commonwealth Games in Delhi loom large in the minds of Invercargill's Eddie Dawkins and Dunedin's Alison Shanks.
As both continue those interminable circuits of the velodrome's Baltic pine, legs pistoning away and breath shooting from their nostrils like brooding dragons, each pump of the crank takes them closer to India.
Contrast Invercargill's frigid familiarity with the dust, the desperation, the pollution and the pounding heat of an Indian summer.
But this is where it starts, particularly for Dawkins, who heads overseas next month on a circuitous route which he hopes will end in Games glory.
While Shanks is planning a return to the golden feeling that left her when she lost her world championship individual pursuit crown in March, Dawkins is still taking his first pedal strokes at world level.
The Commonwealth Games will be a time to shine. Not only does it contain his favourite 1000m time trial event – which has been cut from the Olympic programme – but it comes at a time when he is only growing stronger.
He recently did two squats in a row of 300kg each, a personal best which is testament to the unreal power which sprinters must bring to the velodrome.
Dawkins will travel first to the United States and the track hotbed which is T-Town, before racing grand prix events in Germany. Then it's on to the BikeNZ team base in Bordeaux, France, for final preparations with the rest of the New Zealand squad before the assault on Delhi.
There have been hours in the gym and more time than usual on the road for Dawkins as he looks ahead to the Commonwealth Games.
Those Games are only 16 weeks away. On a bluebird Southland day they seem a world away. In reality they are almost close enough to touch.