The ‘Home of Cycling’ tag worth millions of dollars to the Waipā district economy is in danger of being taken away by an independent inquiry tasked with reviewing the sport’s future.
As part of the Cycling New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand probe, the four-person panel is to look at whether the high performance programmes, which require elite athletes to be in Cambridge for most of the year, should continue.
The results of the inquiry will not be known until early next year but already Cycling New Zealand has announced the closure of four regional development hubs in Invercargill, Christchurch, Auckland and Cambridge.
The hubs, which will close in March, have helped develop the talents of many promising cyclists over the years.
Prior to that, the embattled Cycling New Zealand also lost its principal sponsor Architectural Profiles Limited (APL) – owners of Vantage – founded by Cambridge rich lister Mitchell Plaw and Avanti, naming rights sponsor of the Velodrome in Cambridge.
Cyclists from throughout the Waipā district, including those from Te Awamutu and Cambridge cycle clubs, have all benefitted from the top competition on offer from having New Zealand’s top cyclists on tap for nearly a decade.
So too has the Waipā economy. Deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk said the decisions Cycling New Zealand must make are never easy ones.
“As the home of champions and cycling we have been very proud to be able to host the development hub in Cambridge that offers so many opportunities to our younger cyclists coming through.
“As a council we will continue to support cycling in our district and hope we can continue to develop our young talent.”
Economic reports, which includes data from eftpos card and credit card transactions, show a significant increase in spending in the district when major events like cycling championships are on.
Cyclists training in Waipā are major users of rental housing.
The Cycling New Zealand inquiry will address areas of welfare for those involved with its cycling programmes.
It follows the death of Olympic cyclist Olivia Podmore who moved from Christchurch to Cambridge in 2015 when she was 18 to train with the national cycling team.
Her death in Cambridge on August 9 has been referred to the coroner. Hours before she posted on Instagram about the pressures of high-performance sport.
The following month, Cycling New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand appointed an independent panel to look at support offered to athletes with an emphasis on career progression including induction, selection criteria and exit from the programme; the impact of High Performance Sport NZ funding in cycling and whether having a centralised training hub in Cambridge is beneficial.
In July 2010, Sport & Recreation NZ (Sparc) announced that it would run a tender process for the development of the National Cycling Centre of Excellence that would expand high-performance cycling outcomes; increase awareness of and participation in cycling disciplines within the community, and nurture increased levels of high-performance cycling talent.
Sparc specified that as well as a world-class velodrome, the centre would also need to have ready access to world-class training and competition facilities for road, mountain bike, and BMX, alongside accessible community facilities.
Waikato Bay of Plenty was the successful tenderer and The Velodrome alongside St Peter’s School in Cambridge opened in February 2014.