London: Street Velodrome

This article was originally published in the September 2014 edition of London Cyclist

Led by a former Olympic champion, Team LCC was just pipped to the overall title at the recent Street Velodrome series. Thomas Marshall-Potter reports

In recent years the success of track cyclists like Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton has led to flashy new velodromes being built and older ones being redeveloped across the UK.  The desire of the public to ride and even compete on these tracks has become almost palpable. A few months back we were lucky enough to ride the newly-opened Olympic track at the Lee Valley VeloPark and since then LCC’s Cycling Projects team has been looking at ways to get more people cycling ‘on the boards’.

Without a multi-million pound budget to build our own architect-designed arena, we teamed up with StreetVelodrome, a new events concept, to bring track racing to the public realm and provide riders with a truly unique experience.  Like the famous tracks now familiar to most of the population, the portable street track includes steep-banked corners to give riders that same exhilarating feeling as they slingshot themselves down the straights.

The idea of the Street Velodrome series was to create a completely new competition for both professional and amateur riders. Soon to be televised on Channel 4, it’s the world’s only pop-up track racing event; this has allowed it to tour and take the racing experience to towns and cities across the country.

Olympic hero leads Team LCC

The 2014 series saw a combination of pros and amateurs — including Team LCC — come together and compete over six rounds. The series was not without its big names either, with Team LCC featuring former world and Olympic champion Craig MacLean MBE, who even found time to win two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow between rounds! Other riders included former Olympic and Commonwealth Games rider Ross Edgar, British road and track cyclist Adel Tyson-Bloor, elite mountain biker Lee Gratton, and Cycle Show presenter Anna Glowinski.

The format was simple; turn up and have a ride, and if you wanted to try and qualify for the televised event you could undertake a two-lap time trial. The fastest men and women from these daytime ‘heats’ would then go through to the evening final to race with the pros during the filmed event.

Final showdown at Broadgate

The final race in the series was at Exchange Square, part of Broadgate City of London. It was the second time the tour had ventured into the capital, previously setting up on Haven Green in Ealing. Broadgate proved a great venue for the final, and throughout the day people were taking a break from work to have a ride and experience track racing for themselves.

By rush hour, with Liverpool Street station as the backdrop, large crowds witnessed an evening of competitive track cycling, plus a rather curious penny-farthing race.

Unfortunately for Team LCC, it lost out on the series title in the final race, with Anna Glowinski riding Team Mad Dog to victory. There was a silver lining, however, with Team LCC picking up the prize for most wins in the series. The trophy was collected by 14-year-old British BMX racer Libby Smith, who earlier that day had won LCC’s only gold medal.

CYCLING CITY

Since January 2013, LCC has been working with Broadgate to develop the Broadgate Bike Station initiative, which provides free maintenance, training and advice for cyclists of all levels, experience and ability. Broadgate Bike Station takes place on the first and third Thursday of the month in Finsbury Avenue Square. Lunchtime sessions can be booked in advance or joined on the day.

This high-profile City estate is keen to create a bike-friendly environment for its clients, the 33,000 employees and the visitors to its shops and restaurants. LCC has also developed a monthly newsletter that is distributed to staff and employees across the estate to keep them up to date with the latest news in cycling and cycle campaigning.