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Club feature: Central Otago Wakatipu
Jun 28th, 12. Club feature: Central Otago Wakatipu Cycling Club. With beautiful countryside and two current NZ Champions, this small club has plenty of reason to be proud.
By Scott Rainsford, Central Otago Wakatipu Cycling Club
With eyes of the cycling world again focusing on the Tour de France and Olympics double, it's a great time to look the opposite end of the peloton and highlight quality grass roots programmes and stars of the future.
Of all our proud nations regional clubs none stand taller than the Central Otago Wakatipu Cycling Club. Founded in 1991 by Paul Hathaway and Colin White and limited member base, the club encompassing the triangle of Alexandra, Wanaka and Queenstown had humble and modest beginnings.
In the short space of time it has grown from strength to strength and has regularly out performed significantly larger cycling centres.
James Williamson and Nicky Samuels cut their racing teeth on some of the most scenic road racing courses in New Zealand and continue to support the small club events to fine tune the form before their overseas duties call again.
It's this humble gesture that not only helps to keep the atmosphere special to the regular weekend warrior, but also inspirational to the up and coming juniors; not that the juniors themselves need help making headlines, with 18 year olds Sophie Williamson (James' sister) having just notched up her 20th National title and Tom Vessey also on everyone's radar with strong performances at the recent Tour of Taranaki against a much older and more experienced elite field.
Indeed just what is it that spawns such impressive sporting record from a Club of modest membership and funding?
Nicky joked (with a degree of truth) that it was the combination of rough chip seal, steep hills and all day everyday prevailing wind that made her strong.
While James had to agree with a laugh, he added that small towns produce a supportive community, where unofficial mentors help develop not only junior cyclists, but also the first time novice racers can be made to feel at home in their otherwise daunting first foray into bike racing.
The lack of population and do it yourself inner desire helps to encourage participation with a healthy appetite for success. Their need to prove themselves sparks that National competition fire from within; its classic David vs. Goliath and whatever the formula, appears to be working.
John's legacy in this sense set the Alexandra locals on the pathway it has today. The influence has had a knock on effect with rising stars now also coming out from Wanaka and Queenstown it looks as if New Zealand might just be witnessing the exciting first wave from a deep pool of talent from the south.
The variety of personality's and skill is often reflected in the season calendar which generously makes room for Mountain bike and Multi-Sport events to encourage the members to participate in the best that the region has to offer; and when we're talking region, don't forget we are referring to a part of the world where tourists come the world over to visit and gaze on its spectacular beauty.
For me it's the country that has created the club. After all it is what brought us all together in the first place and what better way to immerse yourself in all it has to offer than by absorbing it for hours on end as it drifts by underneath your wheels.
Racing for some is a great excuse to see and ride a different road and postcard image every weekend.
The motivation to train is natural – no one in their right mind would spend a sunny day indoors – and sunny days down here are plenty, with one of the driest climates in New Zealand very few riders even own and rain jacket, preferring to simply wait it out as they know the sun is always just around the corner.
For sure the Winter chill can bite, but a good set of booties and ski gloves goes a long way and best of all, avoiding the ski field roads the traffic is minimal, the sun warming and the wind often breathless.
What's not to like? With road's that curve through a celebrated landscape on the very edge of UNESCO World Heritage Alpine Parks, coupled with rolling, sunbathed, wine famous country the local courses are themselves most special.
When this year's snow begins to melt and racing starts up again bring your bike for a little competitive holiday, see some sights, make some friends and test yourself against some kids you'll be hearing more from in the future. Wakatipu is as welcoming as you'll find and there's plenty to keep the family entertained if they need some extra coercion!
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