Cambridge ready for their royal namesakes
Friday 11 Apr 2014 9:34 a.m.
The royals are in Auckland today, but tomorrow they head to the Waikato.
After separate engagements in Hamilton, the Duke and Duchess will travel to Cambridge for the opening of the Avantidrome, New Zealand's new Cycling Centre of Excellence.
It's a $28 million complex that took four years to complete.
"It's cool for the town," says Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ulmer. "Crikey, of all the places they could go in the country they're coming to Cambridge."
The velodrome itself is something special – the building is bigger than a rugby field, and inside the 250m cycling track is made from special whitewood imported from Germany.
The new Cambridge facility will be used to centralise track cycling in New Zealand
"It's an opportunity where we can be looking at making gains in our riders every day," says Mark Elliot, high performance director at BikeNZ
"If you're going to get gains, you gotta get all your staff together, all your riders together, and you gotta be working together, so it was an easy decision."
BikeNZ will work closely with the nearby high performance rowing programme, which is reaping the benefits of its own centralised programme.
"When you're trying by yourself it's hard to get the extra bit and get that competitive nature, but having everyone here is pretty special and it helps you push that little bit more," says Joseph Sullivan, Olympic rowing gold medallist.
Tomorrow Sullivan will swap his oars for a pair of wheels, teaming up with his former rowing partner Nathan Cohen to take on fellow gold medallists Hamish Bond and Eric Murray in an all-out 1000m race, with the young royals watching their every pedal.
"Not many people get to say they've met the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, and it'll be awesome – they seem like a cool couple," says Sullivan.
"Gotta do a bit more practice about being a bit more classy, but we'll see how it goes."
Prince William will start the first official race with a gun supplied to him by home of cycling CEO Geoff Balme, after some scrutiny by security.
"I get to sit on stage with them, I get to hand Prince William the gun, which raised the eyebrows of the police when we told them this was how we wanted the day to happen," he says.
"They were worrying about me wandering around with a gun, so the gun's now safely with the police and they'll hand it to me on the day."
Judging by past events, we might even see the sporty couple on the track themselves.
"I don't know if he'll get on a bike in a suit but if he wants to, there's a bike for him to ride," says Elliott.
Regardless, the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will no doubt leave its mark on the town of Cambridge for many years to come.