The passion and pride

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 16-Mar-2017

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THE best story to emerge from this year’s Bendigo International Madison had little to do with the actual 200-lap race, and everything to do with what took place in Bendigo in the lead up  to the big event.

Starting on Thursday night at the Tom Flood Sports Centre, the sight of so many excited young riders, so many large fields, and the awesome spectacle of the Australian Institute of Sport riders going head to head on a warm autumn evening, was truly special.

The excitement and joy on those kids’ faces as they raced around the track was remarkable.

Watching world class riders such as Cameron Meyer go head to head with local club champion Brendan Schultz was also a rare privilege – for us and the riders themselves.

Then on Friday night, those same kids were back at the track, chasing down autographs from the AIS riders, and Meyer and the other elite riders in town for one of the world’s premier cycling events.

On Saturday night, it was the women’s turn to light up the track, and once again, Mother Nature provided a stunning backdrop to the evening’s cycling and athletics action, as world cup champions Amy Cure and Alex Manly hung on for a thrilling victory in the women’s madison.

Earlier on Saturday, I was fortunate to be asked to come along as a guest on the traditional Regional Academy of Cycling Excellence sponsors’ ride.

RACE is a not-for-profit organisation based in Bendigo committed to developing young cyclists both on and off the bike.

After a soft pedal around Bendigo, we all gathered at the Brougham Arms Hotel for the team launch, with national track endurance coach and former Bendigo resident Tim Decker the special guest, together with his young charges from the AIS.

Decker was instrumental in setting up RACE about a decade ago. His immense passion and pride in his riders is matched by his belief in them and their enormous talents.

You could have heard a pin drop as Decker poured his heart out to the young, and not so young, riders in the room.

The assembled riders, including world, national, state champions of today and undoubtedly, those of tomorrow, sat transfixed as their coach and mentor poured his heart out in an honesty session few would have imagined or expected.

It was a privilege to hear such powerful words from someone who has always refused to accept second best.

It was a special nine minutes and 43 seconds, and something I will not forget for a long time.

Decker is a giant in the sport of cycling, yet he’s only about 170 centimetres tall.

It was no accident that he chose to wear the pink cycling kit local real estate agent Paul Dalton wore one week earlier, when he pedalled an extraordinary 627 kilometres around the hallowed Tom Flood Sports Centre to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation.

Decker held Dalton’s epic ride up as an example of success, as he implored his young charges, and the RACE riders, to strive for success in all that they do, both on and off the bike.

The RACE squad members will turn out to be better riders than they already are – that’s a given.

But more importantly, if you’re part of any program that Tim Decker has an interest in, you will turn out a better person as well, and that’s probably even more important.

Decker’s words worked wonders.

Less than 36 hours later, the duo of Alex Porter and Rowan Wight executed a surprise win in the Madison few would have predicted.

At the end of the RACE team launch, I went over to Decker and said g’day.

I told him I wanted to write this article.

He smiled, and then replied with three simple words that pretty much summed it all up… “Go for it.”

twitter@peterkennedy23
pk@bendigopublishing.com

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