News from the Velodrome
by Charmian Hornsby
On a cold, damp New Year Sunday, when many were probably sleeping off their hangovers, 130 cyclists, adults and children, congregated at Herne Hill Velodrome for 2012’s Velo Club de Londrés New Year Madison Cross. This is one of about six such events held at HHV in the winter, when the splendidly resurfaced, banked track is too slippery to ride, and daily open track sessions and racing are suspended until March.
Colourful in their Lycra club strips, with home club VCL very noticeable in bright red and blue, the riders raced to negotiate the precipitous, muddy slopes of the mountain bike course, around the track, and the grass and obstacles within it. A few locals wandered in to browse the ‘cycle jumble’ stalls and marvel at the sweaty, muddy, mostly males, speeding past each other in this exhilarating torture, which is cyclo cross.
For young-at-heart cyclists, of all ages, training continues year-round, with road rides, gym sessions and, for the children, spinning in the marquee beside HHV's Portakabin clubroom - until the marquee was vandalized to destruction again, and the junior squad and their rollers had to seek, and gratefully accepted super refuge in Herne Hill Methodist Church Hall.
Happily, there is hope of change. The charitable trust (HHV Trust, Charity no.1140128), set up in 2011, with generous financial support from the Dulwich Society, has been awarded £400,000 of Southwark Olympic Legacy Project funding to improve cycling at HHV. This must be spent before the end of 2012. Plans are in hand for a 160 metre children’s track within the main track, for 5-8 year olds to cycle on, at the same time as older children using the large track, and also to provide a warm-up track for races. The other priority is for low-level lighting round the perimeter of the track, to enable sessions to continue into the dark autumn - and re-create a feature of the original 1891 track, when it was lit by gas lamps!
Events scheduled for Olympic Year (Herne Hill Velodrome is the only surviving site from the 1948 Olympic Games) are the traditional Good Friday International Track Meeting on 6 April, participation in the Dulwich Festival in May, and a joint event, Going for Gold, with Dulwich Picture Gallery, on Sunday, 24 June, with activities at both venues, celebrating the 1948 Olympics track cycling at HHV. The Gallery will be open, with music and other events, including an exhibition and talk from Tommy Godwin, double Olympic bronze medal cyclist in 1948. At HHV, there will be open cycling and events will include a mock 1948 race, organized by the Veteran-Cycle Club, and a parade of vintage cycles and children in fancy dress, between the two sites. No Olympic cyclists are expected to train there, but HHV continues to produce National Champions and it is hoped some riders, who learnt their craft at HHV, like Bradley Wiggins and Joanna Rowsell, will be in the GB Olympic team. It is likely there will be an event at HHV during the Games.
HHV Trust is working on a business plan and fundraising for replacement buildings and the rest of the HHV site. The Friends of HHV has just been set up to support the Trust and HHV. Please see www.savethevelodrome.com, Friends page, for details, and www.hernehillvelodrome.com for cycling events at HHV.