Monday, 27 June 2011

New velodrome opens in Bournemouth, UK

That Britain is about to emerge as one of the great cycling nations seems obvious right now. Team Sky are all set to add to the victories they've already brought home from the Tour de France, there's a Brit rider with a real chance of winning for the first time in years, Cavendish is the fastest man on two wheels, the female cyclists are adding triumph after triumph to their total success, Ben Swift is getting faster and faster as he becomes ready to take over when Wiggins signs off... if the French don't start looking at us in a new light over the next decade, it'll be a very surprising thing indeed.

More velodromes = healthier kids+sporting success
More evidence of this has come to light in the form of the brand new velodrome which opened in Bournemouth on the South Coast last weekend. The £750,000 facility, the first outdoor velodrome to have been built in this country since 1962, is world class - Olympic and Commonwealth Games veteran Geoff Cooke was first to ride the track, alongside his protégé Ellie Coster (who beat him!) and was highly impressed. "I've ridden tracks all over the world and this is as good an outdoor track as I've ridden," he says. "It's so easy to ride - it's not so steep that kids will be put off."

This is exactly what British cycling needs - facilities for young cyclists and which will encourage more young people to give the sport a go. The British fell in love with cycling even before the French did, but the French realised that a love affair needs work if it's to survive the test of time and so they made sure they spent money, built velodromes and established well-financed training programs. In Britain, the government provided a few urban cycle tracks and left them to decay, perhaps paying a bloke with a broom to go and sweep the broken glass out of the way every once in a while. In France, cyclists are the heroes of the road and are paid respect. In Britain, with the bike widely considered to be what unsuccessful people who couldn't afford cars used in order to get about, cyclists got no respect from drivers and road riding was, much of the time, hellish. Still is, in fact, and it's this combination of perceived low status and unpleasantness that causes most young people to pass the bike on to a younger sibling (or chuck it in the river) and forget about cycling forever just as soon as they can take their driving test and buy a horrible old Vauxhall Nova. Give young cyclists opportunity to learn the techniques and hone their skills and we'll be guaranteed generation after generation of competitive cyclists ready to go out into the world and win races.

British cycling is in a healthier state right now than it has been for many decades - in fact, it's healthier than ever. Every project designed to promote it helps, even small-scale local initiatives. A three-quarter of a million pound velodrome does a world of good.

Bournemouth Cycling Centre is located at Slades Farm just off the A347 in the middle of the town and holds regular open sessions for experienced cyclists aged 14 years or over. See Bournemouth CC's webpage for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment