Velodrome and improved facilities would be biggest legacy from Giro

The Olypmic Games velodrome in London
The Olypmic Games velodrome in London

Cycling Ulster chairman Tommy Lamb doesn’t get stuck in a low gear when you mention a indoor velodrome for Northern Ireland.

“The powers to be can talk all they like about a Giro D’Italia legacy, but getting an indoor arena on the back of that event would be without a doubt the biggest legacy of the lot,” Tommy told the News Letter.

“There is definitely no doubt that we need a velodrome here there is absolutely no argument there.

“From our point of view in Cycling Ulster, we were very disappointed in the 2012 Olympic legacy when we were virtually promised a velodrome with the elite facilities that was supposed to come to Northern Ireland.

“Nothing happened, now we see the Giro D’Italia as a massive opportunity to have a proper legacy to cycling not just for tourism and Northern Ireland, plc.

“Hopefully when the powers to be see just what is involved in this event they will be motivated enough to do something about it.

You only have to see the performance of Martyn Irvine, who is a world track champion in spite of having no track here to train.

“He has to go all over the world to get the elite facilities to train on. He has done that coming from a country without an indoor velodrome.

“Can you imagine how many other cyclists would come through right to the top if we had a track of our own?,” added Tommy.

“An indoor velodrome opens up all sorts of possibilities for school children to go in, just as they would to a swimming pool during the day.

“With the increase of traffic on the roads a velodrome is a very safe environment for children to learn the rudiments of cycling and the skills required,” added Tommy who explained that Cycling Ulster has already been pushing for a track for years.

“We have been lobbying at every opportunity. Just a few months ago we gave a presentation to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee and we left our case on the table.

“But as usual it all boils down to the lack of funding. Everyone agrees we do need one, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty it is all about hard cash.

“Rugby, Soccer and GAA are the big three sports, but cycling is the one big growth sport in Northern Ireland.

“To be honest it has never been bigger and it’s grown at a phenomenal rate year on year.

“For example, we have seen a massive rise in our membership.

“A few years ago we had 30 clubs in Ulster now we have 130 clubs in the province.

“When the Giro passes by it will also bring another big boost to membership, and the cycling authorities really feel that now is the time to get an indoor track.

“There is talk of the Orangefield Track being resurfaced, but we have a major problem in this country of ours in that even if we have one shower of rain a meeting or training is cancelled because the track becomes too dangerous.

“You have teams and clubs coming up from, say Newry or Derry for a track meeting, then one shower of rain and their journey is completely wasted.

“They just turnaround and go home again. It’s obviously just as disappointing for kids who are all keen to train but weather ruins it for them.

“So let’s get an indoor velodrome by slip streaming on the back of the Giro!”

Support for better and new facilities is sure to grow when The Big Start takes place from Belfast to Dublin on Friday, May 9, but Lamb is not the only voice currently getting behind a campaign for a velodrome in the Province.

Former Olympic cyclist Paul Slane also voiced his disappointment that there has not been moves to build an indoor velodrome here and looks at what it has done for Great British cycling in general.

“You look what it has done in England alone. It has brought their riders on to a different level.

“We have a world champion here in Martyn Irvine and he has to go to England or Spain to train and it is crazy he has to do that.

“It would be great that on the back of the Giro, the Government can get the money for a track, either outdoor or indoors.

“They have missed opportunities to strike before when they could have got funding and backing.

“The track in Manchester, and also in the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in Glasgow are both booked up six months in advance, so it should be financially viable when it materialises.”

Well known local cycle shop-owner Davy Kane, who has represented Ireland more times than any other cyclist, also wants that indoor arena, or indeed any arena to teach the youngsters.

“We definitely need a Velodrome, that’s where the young people can start and learn. In Manchester they have school kids getting proper coaching and learning how to handle a bike.

“You only have to look at what the Manchester velodrome did for cycling right at the beginning.

“It all started with Jason Queally winning the individual gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. He started it all and the sport just escalated.

“We have two world track champions in Marty Irvine and Wendy Houvenaghel, but they have to train seriously across the water. In fact, Marty Irvine spends a lot of time training on the track in Majorca.

“We have the old Orangefield Track in east Belfast, but it is a bit dilapidated having been built in 1957.

“So definitely I would love to see the government spend a bit of money to build an indoor cycling track, and the sooner the better to jump on the back of the Giro,” said Davy.

Another Belfast shop owner Eamon McConvey who is more into off-road cycling is also of the same opinion.

“Not only is a velodrome good for people who want to do track racing, but also for all types of cyclists for training. I know there are big costs involved in it.

“I know the velodrome in Manchester nearly went down the tubes due to the expense, but now it’s back in vogue again and a big success. So really it is a must for Northern Ireland, the old Orangefield Track has served its purpose superbly well over the years, but we need a new one,” added Eamon.

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