On right track to nurture cycling stars of tomorrow

The new cycle track at York Sports Village. (GL1002/60e)
The new cycle track at York Sports Village. (GL1002/60e)
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For the bricks and mortar element to the legacy of the Tour de France, cycling enthusiasts need look no further than York.

The historic North Yorkshire city, which plays host to the start of the 200km second stage on Sunday, July 6, will also this summer become home to the north of England’s first outdoor, Olympic-sized velodrome. Construction work began on the £1.1m tarmac velodrome in early March.

And it will be completed right around the time that Chris Froome and Alberto Contador et al will be congregating on the nearby Knavesmire for the start of this year’s second stage.

Situated off Hull Road near the new York Sports Village, and parallel to the A64, the velodrome is element number two of the University of York’s cycling park.

The first part was completed in the middle of last year, a 6km closed circuit track that is six metres wide. Described as closed circuit because there are no outside influences, the track has proven a big success for the university.

To enhance the cycling park, the velodrome is being built at a cost of £1.1m, £350,000 of which comes from the university and £750,000 from British Cycling.

“British Cycling were quite keen to bring a velodrome to Yorkshire and with the land we have here it makes sense,” says the University of York’s commercial director, Jon Greenwood.

“It can fit nicely into the closed circuit track, which also helped in our application for the funds. We put the lion’s share into the closed circuit track so with British Cycling’s contribution this time it evens out. The closed circuit track was built with the support of Clifton Cycle Club who have been fantastic.

“They use that track regularly for events and practice sessions. As well as that it has been certified as an official race walking track and British Triathlon are going to use it for an event later this summer.”

The new velodrome is being constructed on the north side of the existing closed circuit track, which is built in a figure of eight.

Greenwood added: “With the velodrome, we could have opted for a 400-metre long track, which is how a lot of other tracks are built because of the steep slopes. But because we already have the closed circuit track, we wanted to go with the Olympic distance one.

“The velodrome will be used for race meetings, practice sessions and club events. It’s an Olympic replica, so it’s a high standard and a lot of people will want to use it.

“The best thing is it will be open for all. It will have to be monitored though, because it’s a serious piece of kit.”

That such a “serious piece of kit” can be used by anyone, from first-time bike riders to experienced club or even international track cyclists, is a shining example of the Tour de France legacy in action.

“We started building the closed circuit track before Yorkshire actually won the bid for the Tour de France, but the velodrome came after and is a result of the growing interest in the sport and the legacy of the race,” said Greenwood.

“If we can get it finished on schedule, in time for the start of the Tour here in York on July 6, that would be awesome.

“We only started work in the middle of March so we’re hopeful and confident it will be done.

“Initially it was going to be an athletics track but it just fits so nicely as a cycling track, with the buzz about the sport right now, the legacy of the Tour de France, and the fact we already have the closed circuit track.”

The university’s velodrome also underlines the growing interest in the Tour in York. When the city council put up free tickets for the Knavesmire, where stage two will begin, nearly 20,000 were snapped up in no time at all.

Scott Thwaites (centre). PIC: Bruce Rollinson

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