Cambridge, in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, is proving itself to be a world-class cycling destination that will help equip New Zealand’s cycling stars of the present and future with the skills needed to succeed on the world stage.
A state-of-the-art, purpose-built cycling Centre of Excellence, complete with 250m of velodrome track, has seen Cambridge hailed as New Zealand’s ‘official home of cycling.’ The Centre of Excellence offers elite athletes and ordinary New Zealanders the chance to experience and train in a variety of cycling disciplines, including programmes for BMX, road and mountain biking.
The Avantidrome has been thoughtfully designed to make the most of the space and features areas equipped to host a variety of indoor sports, community events and offices of national sporting organisations like Bike NZ and Triathlon NZ.
The small town of Cambridge (pop:18,400) provides the platform to form world-beating athletes. World-champion cyclist Sarah Ulmer and New Zealand BMX superstar Sarah Walker have both trained in Cambridge.
Five-time Olympic-medal-winning - and Cambridge born - equestrian hero Sir Mark Todd also began perfecting his craft in the area. Known as the ‘Equine Capital of New Zealand’ Cambridge has long been famous for breeding outstanding horses, including 13 Melbourne Cup winners.
Despite being inland, Cambridge is also somewhat of a water-sport mecca. In 2010 beautiful, man-made Lake Karapiro played host to the 2010 World Rowing Championships and was described as one of the ‘most picturesque lakes in the world’.
This lake is a hub for New Zealand’s many international-class rowers and canoe racers including Rob Waddell, Mahe Drysdale, multiple-medal-winning twins Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell and 2012 Olympic gold medallists Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.
The mighty Waikato River, which at 425km is New Zealand’s longest, also winds itself through the town and is a popular spot for fishermen to try their hand at casting for plentiful brown or rainbow trout. Jet-boating, kayaking, water-skiing and cruising can also be experienced on the river.
But it is the access to some stunning outdoor cycling tracks that is attracting experienced cyclists, enthusiastic riders and novices to the area. The Waikato River Trails form part of Nga Haerenga - The New Zealand Cycle Trail, a network of sublimely crafted cycle trails and routes giving riders the chance to experience the majestic beauty of New Zealand from the seat of their bike. The Waikato River Trails is an off-road mountain bike experience that follows the Waikato River as it winds through the lush, pastoral region filled with history.
This trail is around 100km and can be tasted with short rides or experienced fully as a four day ride. On the trail riders can expect to encounter everything from peaceful native forest to ecologically important wetlands, culturally significant areas and ancient volcanic rock formations. Hydro dams, suspension bridges and well-crafted boardwalks are also a highlight.
In addition to the Waikato River Trails, Te Awa - The Great New Zealand River Ride is a meandering network of trails which is opening up even more of this rural landscape. Te Awa is being opened in sections, when completed (expected in 2015) it will travel 70km along the banks of the Waikato River and will provide a straightforward route between Hamilton and Cambridge.
Sections through Hamilton City, Cambridge and Lake Karapiro are already open, as is the three kilometre Horotiu section that allows access to the historic Mangaharakeke Pa site - once a defensive settlement for Māori warrior Iranui.
The picturesque tree-lined town of Cambridge offers visitors an insight into the heart of one of New Zealand’s biggest agricultural regions, filled with blooming gardens, passionate locals, great eateries and boutique shopping experiences. It is also the perfect base to explore some of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions.
Cambridge is around 30 minutes from the North Island city of Hamilton, 20 minutes from the Hobbiton Movie Set - a must-see North Island adventure - and less than an hour from the otherworldly experience of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.