Race ‘a boost for velodrome hopes’

Dave Kane, ex-cycle champ, now east Belfast bikeshop owner, inside his shop
Dave Kane, ex-cycle champ, now east Belfast bikeshop owner, inside his shop

The success of the Giro d’Italia may finally turn dreams of a dedicated Northern Ireland cycling arena into reality – allowing the Province to be a candidate for hosting the Commonwealth Games.

That is the view from veteran cyclist Dave Kane, a three-times Commonwealth competitor, who believes the balance could finally tip in favour of such a project thanks to the wave of excitement created by the Giro.

If he had been asked about the prospect just one week ago, he said he would not have been hopeful.

“Now, after this, I definitely think so,” said the 73-year-old Comber man.

“Now that the politicians – Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness – were down there at the finish they’ve seen the way (cycling) has come on.”

Like golf before it, the sport has now become “cool”, he said, but added: “The only way we’ll ever improve and get the younger generation into it is with a velodrome.

“But hopefully this will be the boost we need.

“There’s got to be a knock-on effect now. We can’t let this die.

“I think this has to move it up the agenda, when you see the support that the general public put behind it.”

He recalls discussions to create such a facility around Belfast City Airport some years ago, but the facility was never built.

There is presently no indoor velodrome on the entire island of Ireland, although blueprints are currently being drawn up for one at the Republic’s National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Planning permission is to be sought “in the near future” the Irish government said, adding that construction could even begin later this year if funding comes through (see below left).

However, Mr Kane said that Northern Ireland itself could still do with its own velodrome – especially if it wants to be in with a chance of bagging the Commonwealth Games in future.

The shop owner, who formerly held the Belfast to Dublin speed record of four hours, 18 minutes – achieved on the same bike he cycled to the shipyard on each day – said that Scotland was now hosting the games for a third time.

“We’ve got our 50-metre pool now at long last,” he said, referring to the newly-built Olympic-size pool in Bangor’s Aurora Centre, adding that the Mary Peters’ running track had recently been upgraded, too.

“There’s no reason for us not to be in there with a bid for the Commonwealth Games.

“Certainly we have (the facilities), and what we haven’t got we can build.”