Some sporting events become so synonymous with their location that it is inconceivable to think of them moving. The event known around the world simply as “Wimbledon”, for example, would become the plain old British Tennis Open if the venue ever changed. The Good Friday Meeting at Herne Hill may not have quite that level of global recognition but having been inaugurated in 1903 it is steeped in history and tradition and holds a special place in the hearts of British track cycling aficionados.
But all that is about to change as the event – which boasts Sir Chris Hoy, Stuart O'Grady, Jamie Staff, Rob Hayles and a host of other stars among its previous winners in endurance and sprint events – is being moved to the Manchester Velodrome this year. The Good Friday Meeting will take to the boards of the National Cycling Centre on April 22.
A statement from event organisers, Bristow events, said: “Faced with the uncertainty over the future of Herne Hill, the lack of facilities for riders and spectators and the increasingly difficult promotional conditions, the Southern Counties Cycling Union see the move as an exciting new beginning for the meeting which will bring it into the modern era of track cycling and reaffirm it as Britain’s premier open track meeting.”
“After three years of indifferent weather culminating in the loss of the event [in 2010] the SCCU have not taken the decision lightly and realise that some people will be disappointed.”
Long term organiser of the event Graham Bristow said: “The change of venue allows us to guarantee racing for the riders, which always includes a significant international contingent, and a fantastic spectacle for the loyal cycling fans who have supported this meeting”.
Herne Hill, the last remaining finals venue from the 1948 Olympic Games, has fallen into disrepair over the years and the Granstand has long been structurally unsound. The track surface has also deteriorated to the point where the track may be forced to close its doors for insurance reasons, even though hudreds of people regularly use the track. There's currently a campaign to save the velodrome spearheaded by Hillary Peachey and representing cyclists and local residents.
Hillary told road.cc, “We do feel it was a great shame to loose the Good Friday meet, but this was not only due to the weather but also lack of facilities. We do understand why it was moved to Manchester and it will be interesting to see the feedback after the event. My overriding experience in the short time I have been involved in the Velodrome campaign is of the loyalty that people have to Herne Hill.”
For more information on the campaign to save Herne Hill, visit www.savethevelodrome.com
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.