Date: Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Invercargill based velodrome will become a regional cycling development hub as a pathway for future stars from the southern region.

Top Southland riders such as Piet Bulling, Nick Kergozou and Eddie Dawkins have become international stars after years of training and hours in the saddle at New Zealand's first indoor track.

The recent emergence of the Cambridge Avantidrome had cast a shadow over the SIT Velodrome's dominance of the sport in New Zealand with the high performance programme and the sharing of major events between the two centres. However it seems there is still an important role for the southern base.

According to Cycling New Zealand high performance athlete development lead Graeme Hunn, Southland will become a regional hub for 16-20 year-old riders from the Otago and Southland regions, in the coming months, allowing participants to continue living at home.

"It's a performance and training environment for young talented athletes to ensure that we have quality athletes ready to migrate into the HP programme," he said.

"It is about ensuring that young talent is able to get the training and knowledge they need where they live, socialise and are educated, rather than having to move to a centralised programme."

The hub would be the second in the country, with one working as a feeder in Cambridge already for the high performance programme.

"We have one opened in Cambridge so we are working at the moment establishing the same in Invercargill for the southern region," he said.

"We are looking at making sure young athletes have access to training facilities and to ensure for them when it is time for them to move to the elite environment they can and they do it all in their home environment."

The programme will begin once a fulltime coach is appointed. The key will be to utilise the resources that already exist in Southland including the already succesful Academy Southland.

"Hopefully in three months we have a coach appointed or even started," Hunn said.

"The key is to utilise some programmes that are already in place, I mean in Invercargill we have high quality programmes and people, we don't want to replicate those things."  

Academy Southland have had a close involvement with supporting cyclists from the development to elite level during the 10 years of the velodrome – often being able to offer extra support to Southland athletes that other areas in New Zealand have not been able to.

"We have had initial discussions with Cycling New Zealand and they see it as an advantage for the proposed hub that we already have in place the support systems and experienced people like providers in athlete support," Academy Southland programme manager Jason McKenzie said.

Although having two indoor cycling facilities in New Zealand has meant sharing major cycling events, it has also helped volunteers in Southland.

"It has meant sharing track events with Cambridge, us one year them the next, age groups one place elites the other place.  It has meant less burden on volunteers," Cycling Southland president Lindsay Jordan said.

The regional development hub will provide an opportunity for a continuation of southern dominance in track cycling.

"We still have a lot of good up and comers coming through, it doesn't stop that," Jordan said.

"It is something we have been striving for since we don't want to lose the impetus of the young ones coming through."

While the new programme will benefit southern junior cyclists, the new track in Cambridge does mean less riders from the rest of the country come south before becoming elite riders.

"Certainly some of them are going directly to Cambridge, not necessarily to the elite squad," Jordan said.

"People used to come down here because there was nowhere else to go, it will be more shared now."

Article and photo courtesy Stuff

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