Like most good ideas, Monday night cycling started over a beer, Geoff Lienert says.
There was a core group of about 15 riders, and they discussed the possibility of having a race, the Waimate Cycling Club stalwart said.
‘‘It grew from there.’’
The club had consistently produced athletes who had performed well at a national level, he said.
Heath Blackgrove and Dylan Kennett have been to the Olympics, and Holly Edmondston is on the radar for Tokyo 2020.
‘‘I had a count up one day, and I think I have helped out at least 21 New Zealand titles, from different individuals — pretty amazing, really,” Lienert said.
‘‘If you get somebody that starts off at a good standard, everything else follows because the competition is there.’’
About 40 people took part in Monday night cycling each week, depending on circumstances and weather, he said.
Many travelled to Waimate from Timaru and Oamaru.
The 16km course has only changed once in its 31 years, moving from the main road to a more cycle-friendly route. Starts are staggered so someone new to cycling could compete with a world champion like Kennett.
‘‘We’ve deliberately kept very little prize money, last year was the first year we charged a sub ($5) — people aren’t really racing for money they are racing for ribbons and half the people don’t even take prize money.’’
Like Lienert, Steve Bailey has also been involved since the beginning.
‘‘From day one it just took off,’’ he said.
‘‘Because it’s so low key, we don’t have to fundraise and it’s not onerous.
‘‘We still race seriously, but it’s a friendly environment, we really foster the young ones, we ride with them and teach them — that’s what it’s all about.
‘‘It certainly works.’’
Ivan Hill, who moved to Waimate from England in 2001, was a keen runner, but got into cycling when he arrived.
‘‘For the size of [Waimate] it is absolutely bonkers.
‘‘There have always been 30 or 40 cyclists and it might edge up to 50 some nights.’’
Hill moved to Queenstown for work 10 years ago, before returning to South Canterbury recently.
‘‘It was things like clubs that brought us back.
‘‘There is nothing like this, even in Queenstown, there is no big cycle club or big running club — it’s things like that, and the social side it brings.’’
The handicap system meant it was easy for new people to give it a go, he said.
‘‘Part of the setup is it caters for everyone, it’s not just a scratch race where the quickest wins every night.
‘‘You are never given a hard handicap to start with, the only time I won was the first night.
‘‘The older guys will sacrifice their run or evening and go round with the new ones and teach them how to do it.’’
Elite New Zealand cyclist Holly Edmondston was about 7 years old when she took part in her first Monday night cycling race, following in the footsteps of her older brothers.
Now, she is preparing for the Track Cycling World Cup events in Cambridge next month, in a bid to make next year’s Olympics.
Edmondston, who has been named in the New Zealand cycling squad for a UCI Track World Cup round next month, said she was drawn to cycling because she simply enjoyed
riding a bike.
‘‘When you were a kid, any type of biking was fun.
‘‘It was your way of getting places when you were young because you didn’t have a car.
‘‘You’re in the country, but a bike gave me a bit of freedom.’’
Edmondston remains in touch with several people in the Waimate cycling community.
‘‘They all just loved to see how far you could go with it.
Every time you wanted to do it for them, make them proud.’’
Now based in Cambridge, with a hectic training schedule, Edmondston rarely gets the opportunity to compete in Waimate any more.
But it is no walk in the park when she does.
‘‘Every time I go it is like the hardest race of the year, 16km with all the old mates from Waimate shifting it for two laps — it’s hard.’’