Olympian invited the country to his birthday bash

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 24/12/2012

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There was a party at Simon van Velthooven's place and everyone in New Zealand was invited - until it came to the crunch.

"The whole nation wouldn't fit here," the Olympics bronze medal winning cyclist explained at the party held at his family's Manawatu farm on Saturday.

Celebrating his Olympic cycling keirin bronze in London, van Velt- hooven, 24, dubbed it "the nation's medal" and made headlines when he invited the entire country to share in his glory at a belated 21st birthday bash.

Saturday night's party on the outskirts of Feilding, near Palmerston North, had a guest list that read like a who's-who of New Zealand cycling, but the invitation to the rest of the country to come and enjoy "a big barbecue and a sheep on the spit" was withdrawn in recent days for fear of inviting chaos.

Paul van Velthooven said his jaw hit the floor when his son announced to national media that he would be throwing a party at the family farm - and everyone in New Zealand was invited.

Since the initial offer, the scale of the party had been "reined in" by its hosts to a more modest guest list of about 300 people, Mr van Velthooven said.

"I know everyone here by their first name," van Velthooven said. "Everyone here has supported me in some way and this is a way to thank the people that have supported me."

Sponsored by Moa Beer, hundreds turned out in the Manawatu sunshine for the bash tipped to be the party of the year. Among them were some Olympic guests including van Velthooven's fellow medallists, the men's pursuit team comprising Jesse Sergent, Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan, and Aaron Gate.

But it was Timaru Olympic cyclist Shane Archbold who took gold for dedication. He cycled from Timaru to Rongotea, to make his mate's party without compromising his strict training schedule.

Archbold left Timaru last Wednesday and arrived at 5pm on Saturday, riding to a well-deserved cold beer.

"It was pretty good. I wouldn't have missed this for the world," he said.

His journey did not unfold without incident.

The 23-year-old cyclist was forced to take a detour after he was stopped by police in Christchurch for riding on State Highway 1.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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