Olympians, coaches and several key players in the project were among the first group to ride on the "magnificent" newly completed track at Cambridge's Avantidrome - and all have given it a resounding seal of approval.
Among the group was Home of Cycling Trust deputy chairman and Olympic rowing gold medallist Rob Waddell, who said "you could see the excitement in everyone's eyes".
Led out on to the track by Brian Perry Charitable Trust chairman Simon Perry, the group also included Home of Cycling Charitable Trust chief executive Geoff Balme and New Zealand's current track cycling world champion Aaron Gate.
"The feeling of actually riding on the track was just magnificent," Waddell said after completing several laps. "Really, it all came down to this moment. It was a hugely exciting day and I'm very, very proud.
"I guess it's now got to the point where people are realising that, as we have said all along, we can and will deliver on what we said we would. As a trust we have tried to do everything really well, as best as we could, so that we have a track that is world class - and it is.
"I can't wait to see the benefits this will have for Cambridge and the wider Waikato; it's just so exciting."
Gate was also buzzing after going for a spin on the track. "That was awesome. You can see this is going to be a great track for riders here."
Yesterday afternoon, the track was officially handed over to the trust by Klaus Shatz, a representative of German firm Schuermann Architects.
"This has been an excellent track installation," Mr Shatz said. "The velodrome has been built very well by the Livingstone Building team and so we made very good time with completion."
Reflecting on that all-important first ride, Mr Balme described the experience as "surreal".
"I couldn't sleep at all the night before, and Thursday was amazing. I took the chance to just step back, take a breath and reflect on what we have actually created.
"In the beginning, some people may have doubted that we could do this, and now we have. I know the project isn't quite over, but it does feel very real now."
The track will now undergo a commissioning and testing phase to ensure it gains Union Cycliste Internationale approval, before it officially opens in March.
A thorough workout over the next two months will ensure everything from the track surface and associated equipment, to services such as the lights, heating, ventilation, the public address system, the scoreboard, the photo finish camera and the start gates are up to scratch.
BikeNZ's elite track athletes will also ride on the track as part of the commissioning and testing process.
Waddell said the trust had started promoting the community programmes that will be available and was already selling track time.
"Our Have a Go and accreditation sessions are proving very popular," he said.
- Waikato Times
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