Ride at the UK’s top cycling centres
British cycle racing hasn’t always been the huge success story that it is today and, like many great sporting feats, the results of London 2012 and the Rio 2016 Olympics came after years of preparation, dedication and investment.
Britain’s velodromes naturally have played their part in this success – both past and present – and their place within cycling’s rich folklore should never be downplayed.
But where and when did the first velodromes spring up? Are they still used today? And if so, are they the places where Britain’s gold medalists honed their craft?
The early velodromes
One of the world’s first velodromes was built at Preston Park in Brighton, a 633 yard long track that opened in 1877. Portsmouth velodrome soon followed, featuring a single straight joined by one swooping curve.
The materials that were used in the early velodromes differed from track to track, as did each circuit’s functionality. While some were built specifically for cycling, others were built around the outside of running tracks, providing extra lanes for runners to train.
Throughout the history of the Olympics, many velodromes were used – all of which differed in size, length and technical aspects. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1990s when the length of velodromes were standardised, a factor which resulted in the reason why today’s events take place on a 250 metre track, as opposed to the various lengths that were used throughout the 20th century.
UK’s greatest tracks
Although some of the early velodromes may have closed their doors, there are still many great velodromes here in the UK and the number of facilities continues to increase. Just take a look at some of the tracks below.
Lee Valley VeloPark – now arguably the most famous velodrome in the UK the Lee Valley VeloPark, in east London, is the track where Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott rode to victory during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Manchester Velodrome – the home of British Cycling (the sport’s governing body), Manchester Velodrome is the place where some of the nation’s finest Olympians have trained over the years. Located near the Etihad Stadium, the velodrome is also open to the public – just make sure you book well in advance if ever you fancy a few laps!
The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome – while the Manchester Velodrome may be home to British Cycling, the Scottish Cycling team can often be found training on Glasgow’s Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. Again, this track is open to the public, which is handy for any cyclist looking to build their fitness.
Herne Hill Velodrome – is one of the oldest tracks in the world, built in south London in 1891, and for decades was the home of the famous Good Friday Track Meeting. In 1948 it hosted the track cycling events at the London Olympics and it is still a very popular track for training and racing today.
Newport Velodrome – The Welsh National Velodrome opened in 2003 and was used by the British track cycling team for its pre-event training camps ahead of the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. It has also been crucial in developing a string of talented Welsh cyclists such as Nicole Cooke and Geraint Thomas.
Remembering Leicester track
While the tracks above highlight some of the best UK velodromes today, it’s worth remembering one of of the great velodromes of the past.
The Saffron Lane Velodrome – an outdoor stadium that once played host to some of British Cycling’s most memorable moments – was a 3,100 seater velodrome located in Leicester. The Leicester track hosted the UCI World Championships in 1970 and 1982.
Unfortunately, the opening of the new Manchester Velodrome hastened the end for the once glorious Saffron Lane track which eventually closed its doors in 1999.
Take a look at the map below to see where all the UK’s velodromes are located and to find out more about which notable cyclists have trained where.
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||Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome
||Tommy Givan Track
||Middlesbrough Sports Village
||Richmondshire Velodrome (Richmondshire Cricket Club Velodrome)
||Richmond, North Yorkshire
||York Sport Velodrome
||York, North Yorkshire
||Leeds, West Yorkshire
||Quibell Park Stadium
||Long View Leisure (Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park)
||Huyton Knowsley, Merseyside
||Manchester Velodrome (The National Cycling Centre)
||Forest Town Welfare
||Lyme Valley Stadium
||Halesowen, West Midlands
||Maindy Stadium (Maindy Centre)
||Newport Velodrome (Newport Velo)
||Palmer Park Stadium
||Gosling Sports Park
||Welwyn Garden City
||Lee Valley VeloPark
||Leyton, East London
||Herne Hill Velodrome
||Poole Park Track
||Bournemouth Cycle Centre
||The Mountbatten Centre
||Brighton, East Sussex