The revamped Herne Hill track was officially re-opened this morning by the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson. The track now boasts a new state of the art all weather surface paid for by British Cycling in part with a bequest left to it by Londoner Leonard Lyes a track fan and life-long supporter of Herne Hill Velodrome and with investment money from Sport England.
Opening the track Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, said: “It is fitting that the year before London 2012, we are able to celebrate the refurbishment of the track at one of the key venues from the 1948 Games. As the popularity of cycling continues to grow, it is vital that people are provided with the facilities and opportunities to ride their bikes, be they young people starting out, serious racers, or others simply cycling to keep fit. Thanks to the new track that has been laid Herne Hill now takes its place as one of the country’s leading cycling facilities.”
The official opening was then marked by a ceremonial lap of the track led by Chris Boardman and British Cycling President, Brian Cookson, accompanied by local riders.
Earlier this year Herne Hill's future was secured for the long term when an agreement was reached with its landlords, the Dulwich Estate ending years of uncertainty which at various times had seen it seemingly destined for closure and redevelopment. The latest bout of uncertainty led to the creation of the Save the Velodrome Campaign which successfully mobilised support from local residents and the wider cycling community in particular British Cycling. Although the newly laid track represents a significant step forward in the velodrome's rehabilitation it is only a step towards the complete refurbishment of the facilities and the fundraising efforts of the Save the Velodrome Campaign will continue.
Work began in July and has seen the track re-surfaced with a special velodrome-specific covering called ‘MasterTrack’, developed in conjunction with Tarmac, as well as a new outer Safety Fence and Safety Zone run-off area inside the track. The project was planned and overseen by British Cycling’s National Facilities Manager Dave Cockram, and Facilities Officer Patrick Flanagan.
British Cycling President, Brian Cookson, said: “It’s fantastic to be here today and see the first of what we hope will be a number of improvements resulting directly from the new agreement between British Cycling and The Dulwich Estate. Getting a longer-term lease in place was essential in terms of our ability to invest in the new track and make best use of the generous donation from Leonard Lyes. I’m sure he’ll be looking down today with a smile on his face – we know Herne Hill was close to his heart and this new track will mean it can continue to bring the joy and excitement of cycling to the whole community for many years to come.
“We are well on the way to achieving the participation targets set out in our Whole Sport Plan for 2009-2013 and each year we invest around £2 million in building new and improving existing facilities to help ensure the increasing number of people who want to ride their bikes can do so. This is particularly important for those at the start of their cycling career to help set them off on the right footing. We have become the number one cycling nation in the world because our riders have been able to develop their careers from an early age in the right environment and benefiting from the right facilities. This continued investment, which this year alone has also seen the opening of new facilities in Bournemouth and Blackpool amongst others, will help ensure the next generation of champions can get off to the best possible start.”
Commenting on the re-opening of the venue where his racing career began a the age of 12 triple Olympic Gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, currently in contention at the Vuelta, said:
“I have such fond memories of Herne Hill which played an important role in my development as a rider. I remember the buzz I got from racing there when I was younger and that really gave me the bug for the sport. It’s fantastic to see Herne Hill benefiting from this investment – it’s such an iconic facility not just for the local area but for the whole British cycling scene. I hope the new track means more young people head down to Herne Hill to learn the ropes, develop their skills and, who knows, start their journey towards Olympic success.”
With a new track now in place it will be interesting to see if the 2012 Good Friday meeting so long synonymous with Herne Hill will return from Manchester where it re-located last year and whether the London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG) will consider using it as one of the practice venues for next year's Games – it does after all have some Olympic pedigree. Last time road.cc asked LOCOG had not made a decision on the matter, well not one they were ready to go public with. LOCOG has though signaled their intention to use Hog Hill as a practice venue to the consternation of some of its users who fear that their racing programme will be curtailed by an Olympic incursion in to a venue set up to house those displaced by the demolition of the Eastway Circuit to make way for the Olympic Park.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.