Royal tour gets on its bike

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 16:34 12/04/2014
MIKE SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

To loud cheers the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit New Zealand's new home of elite cycling.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continued charming Kiwis during their visit to the Official opening of Cambridge's Avantidrome this afternoon.

While Prime Minster John Key did receive quite a strong applause from the crowd when he arrived, it was obvious who the 1500-strong crowd really wanted to see.

The fact the couple were running slightly late didn't stop the roof-lifting cheers as the royals walked out into the centre of the dome with Olympic cyclist Sara Ulmer.

There they were met on stage by a man they've come to know quite well over the last few days - Key.

A brief introduction was made before William officially opened the Avantidrome, thanking the crowd for their "extremely warm welcome".

"It's a great pleasure for Catherine and me to be here to pay tribute to to New Zealand's cycling heritage and cycling future.

"I know what a special place cycling holds for New Zealanders."

He said the Avantidrome represented cycling's pinnacle and would no doubt be the crucible for many of tomorrow's winners.

He and Kate then jointly pulled open a red curtain to unveil a plague. 

It was then time for the Duke to start a race that pitted New Zealand cycling world champs Eddie Dawkins, Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell against Simon van Velthooven and team mates.

While security was tight, the Prince was allowed to start it off with a gun - of sorts anyway.

And it was the world champs that won the race, with Dawkins - dripping in sweat- remarking afterwards that he got a huge "buzz" from racing in front if the royal couple.

Webster said to come away with a win in front of royalty was "a pretty special thing".

The couple also met some of New Zealand's other sporting elite including Olympic Gold medal rowers Hamish Bond, Eric Murray and Mahe Drysdale, as well as gold medal canoeist Lisa Carrington.

Drysdale, who had met William in 2011, said it was great to meet the royal couple together.

"They are personal and very easy to talk to and I think that's why you've had the crowds around the country, it's been fantasists watching them get out and talk to people."

He said the couple asked how his training was going.

"Obviously they watched us in London race and remembered us from that - so that was nice that they were aware of who we are."

But easily the biggest heart they won over was that of 12-year-old Cailen Calkin - the current BMX world champion.

"That was the most incredible thing ever," he said.

Cailen, along with some of his other BMX team mates, gave a short demonstration of their skills on a mini BMX track. And he was a bit nervous that he might stack it.

The couple's visit was rounded off with a presentation from Avanti founder John Struthers who presented the couple with one of the cutest gifts they've received their entire trip - a small bike to take home to Prince George and his first set of lycras - New Zealand team ones of course.

Kate, as well as the crowd, couldn't help but gush at the cuteness of the gifts.

Struthers said they were touched by such a generous gift.

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"She was just talking about looking forward to a time when George would be able to ride it," Struthers said afterwards.

He just hoped the couple wouldn't have any difficulties getting the gift back home. "I hope Air New Zealand don't charge them excess baggage, you know what airlines are like these days."

As the royal couple left the crowd erupted again in applause and screams. They have returned to Wellington for the evening.

- Fairfax Media

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