English imports conquer track

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SIX months ago Ruth and Andy Whelan had never been on a track bike.
On Sunday, the cycling newbies and their team-mates powered home to third place in the annual Cycling Southland Corporate Pursuit event.
And to top it off, Mrs Whelan won the women’s scratch race.
They were results which surprised the couple.
‘‘We’re completely stoked… Andy and I had basically done no exercise for 15 years until we started training for this.’’
The Whelans took up cycling after moving to Invercargill from England in October with their children Ben (8) and Lucas (5).
Mrs Whelan said they were interested in living abroad for a few years and Dr Whelan, an anaesthetist, found a suitable job advertised at Southland Hospital.
‘‘We said, ‘Invercargill, where’s that?’ We looked it up and saw it was right down the bottom [of NewZealand].’’
Not long after their arrival they found out about beginners’ track sessions at the velodrome and went along in January.
Although she had cycled to school and university regularly, Mrs Whelan said getting on a track bike with no brakes ‘‘was a bit of a shock’’.
‘‘I was so nervous. And I had a bit of a fall the first time I had a go. But I’ve learnt to stop a bit better now.’’
It was Andy’s idea to enter a hospital team — The Vapourisers — in the Corporate Pursuit, she said.
‘‘He got really enthusiastic about the idea. He likes a challenge. I had to prove myself to get a place on his team, but he let me in in the end.’’
Mrs Whelan said she and her family were enjoying Invercargill now they had settled in, after a few months of itbeing a ‘‘bit bewildering’’.
‘‘We’ve been really blown away by the facilities here. There was definitely no velodrome nearby [our old home] on the South Coast of England, and getting to most things was a slog.’’
Andy had exchanged a four-hour-aday work commute for a 20-minute one, she said.
‘‘Coming to Invercargill, everything is 10 minutes away. It’s just amazing. Andy likes to do his sums and when he stopped that commute he calculated he got back an entire working week every month in time. ‘‘Suddenly there is a lot more time to do other things — like cycling.’’
So what’s next for the cycling Whelans, the Olympics?
‘‘We’re 38 so it’s probably a bit late for that, but maybe the Southland age groups, or the Masters. We’ll see where it goes,’’ Mrs Whelan said with a laugh.

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