A man with a cunning plan

22:42, Apr 13 2014

Home of Cycling chief executive Geoff Balme was all smiles and welcomes when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge dropped in to officially open the Avantidrome on Saturday - but in the back of his mind he was plotting.

Plotting to make sure New Zealand snatches some of Great Britain's Olympic gold medal glory in Rio in 2016, saying the new Avantidrome was the perfect place to breed future medal hopefuls.

"We must have a good chance, mustn't we?" he said. "We'll start to make inroads anyway, whether we can win quite as many . . . because they've got more people of course. But we'll thump them per capita."

For Balme, the royal visit was just the "icing on the cake" for what has been a long journey to get the Avantidrome on the outskirts of Cambridge built.

"It was just wonderful - all those words. It's everything I ever thought it would be.

"They're really the icing on the cake aren't they? They are a beautiful couple, frankly, and I think the best thing was the crowd response. It's put smiles on peoples' faces."


It showed the power of sport in a community.

"It's so important to us. It's brought the royals here, another demonstration of what sport can do in our community, that's what we've done. And OK it's the high performance guys here now, but so many people today were saying now that they've seen some track racing, they'll come back."

Home of Cycling chairman Simon Perry, who escorted the couple around, said he was "deeply honoured" the Duke and Duchess could attend.

But he, too, had his sights firmly set on snatching gold medals away from the Brits at the next Olympics.

At the London Olympics in 2012, Team GB won 12 medals in cycling - eight of them gold.

He said the opening in 1994 of a national cycling centre in Manchester was behind Great Britain's success - and now the Avantidrome would do that for New Zealand.

"In short Your Royal Highness, we'd dearly love to elbow in on Team GB success," he told Prince William during the ceremony.

But it wasn't all about stealing medals off the Brits - with Avanti founder John Struthers sending the couple home with a little gift for Prince George - a small Avanti bike 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. "She was just talking about looking forward to a time when George would be able to ride it.

"They were very thrilled because [Prince William] enjoys bikes and rides bikes, he was really appreciative."

He hoped there would be no 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."

Waikato Times