Posts Tagged ‘manchester velodrome’

Revolution Revelation

February 2, 2012

Words: Jonathan Bacon

Gosh, a revelation as much as Revolution. The Manchester Velodrome is a spanking place. Impressive but welcoming – it hides the pain well, but I could feel it. As I wandered the ‘pits’ watching riders spin away on rollers like they were walking in the park, and VIPs clinking glasses and talking the talk, I realised the huge divide between the crowd and the racers. They were a lateral step away. But a big step, a huge stride, a power-packed prowess that wasn’t obvious but was there all the same.

It was the final (4th) round of  this season’s Revolution Series. The Rouleur team had done us proud, and would do again. I was there to say hello and watch the racing. I was soon to marvel at how easy the riders made it look. I’ve ridden at Newport, I believe it’s the same size as Manchester, so the principles were known. The practice was something else. I was told that the riders see these kind of events as ‘fun’ – a break from the really serious stuff – but as the evening went on and they were out there, lap after lap, time after time, I found myself struggling to comprehend their fitness, their stamina, their strength. My thighs twinged sympathetically as the Velodrome commentator suggested “a 15 second final lap should see them take the win” and a lone rider was slung off to fight his lactic threshold. It was fast, impressive and relentless. I spent most of the evening slacked jawed.

God, they go fast. Jason Kenny went very fast, and very early to beat Chris Hoy in a round of the sprint. It was an upset, smart-thinking, well-deserved (all of the above). The Derny race was truly fabulous – I must find out how rider and pilot communicate, although I get the feeling the Howies rider wasn’t too pleased about some aspect of it – perhaps just his own performance. The Devil should be later in the evening – it’s too much fun to have it early. Sprinting when there is no space to sprint into is plain fascinating. And the various points races are of a length that would have me broken after three laps so I’m in awe of the riders who ride lap after lap at an ever quickening pace to then sort things in the last three. Dry mouth in the house.

Great venue, facilities, lovely atmosphere, a really good vibe (I think that’s the phrase). I’m looking forward to next year. I’m going to sort out a session for our Rouleur team – a staff outing – should be good. And whilst it’s available I’ll watch the ITV Player show again, and again… click here (I think it’s there until the end of Feb – do take a look).

Steve Makin was with me and took some appropriate photographs. They’re here…

And a few from the Bacons…

On Track

December 15, 2011

Words: Ian Cleverly

Track racing was not a big feature of growing up in Wiltshire. We were pretty well served by outdoor concrete bowls within an hour’s drive – Cardiff in one direction, Reading in the other – but rarely made the trip, preferring riding our bikes to travelling in cars. I maintain that stance still, opting for the nearby race whenever possible. Spending hours cooped up in a car seems to defeat the object.

The other track within an hour or so’s drive was Calshot, the 160-metre wooden oval with dramatically steep banking initially built for the annual Skol 6 events, then retired to it’s permanent base in a vast former aircraft hanger on a spit of land jutting into the mouth of the Solent. The pine planks had, over the years, sunk between the uprights to an alarming degree, so that each lap became ‘bu-dum-bu-dum-bu-dum’, followed by smooth, ‘bu-dum-bu-dum-bu-dum’, smooth, ad infinitum. It was exhilarating and jarring in equal measure.

A training weekend a couple of years back organised by Dave Le Grys seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out the 142-metre replacement, another Ron Webb designed and built beauty (Manchester and the new Olympic velodrome in London, amongst others, are also the Australian’s work.)

Something had happened in the three intervening decades since my previous Calshot excursion. It was still thrilling, but also nausea-inducing. I fought to hold my line at the bottom of the banking, making the beginner’s error of backing off the power, sending the bike careering up the track. Even with one-to-one tuition, I couldn’t get my head round it. The carefree 14-year-old had turned into a lily-livered old git, green around the gills and trembling. I made my excuses and left. There’s no going back. The shallow concrete of Herne Hill is more suited to a man of my delicate disposition.

Thankfully, I still get the same buzz out of watching track racing as the first Skol 6 I saw at the Empire Pool, Wembley, in ’77. The domestic professionals were familiar enough – Mick Bennett, Steve Heffernan, Tony Gowland – but it was the great Patrick Sercu that I had come to see, and he duly delivered. Graeme Fife interviews Sercu in the next issue of Rouleur, by the way.

The Empire Pool was a draughty old wreck of a building, on its last legs, and what passed for music in those days was one scratched and worn vinyl copy of Popcorn by Hot Butter, one of the most infuriating ditties ever composed. Every lull in the action was filled with the kind of synthesizer noises that made one wish Mr Moog had never been born. It was still a great night out, though, especially for a bumpkin up from the Wild West Country for the night.

Now that I’m a sophisticated townie from the Big Smoke [Are you quite sure about this? Ed] a night at the track is still a hoot, especially when there is a Rouleur-sponsored team involved. So thrilled were we to be leading the pack after the opening round of the Revolution series in October that the Editor, photographer Taz Darling and myself made sure we were in Manchester for round two.

This turned out to be the kiss of death. Everybody commented on how great our jerseys looked (nice work, Biff) but it’s not much use being sartorially ahead when said jerseys are scraping along the boards, poor Joe Kelly and Sam Harrison making a hash of a Madison sling and retiring hurt. Look on the bright side: crashes get plenty of TV time…

This left Iljo Keisse, European Madison champion and Six-Day star, to fly the Rouleur flag in the final event of the evening. And what a great job he did of pulling back the break and setting Mark Cavendish up for a very popular win. Now, why would he do that? “Fix!” we hear you cry. Maybe. Who cares?

These events are great shows – no more, no less. Seeing the finest of British track riders alongside a smattering of European talent in a great velodrome with a World Champion turning on the style in front of a full house… what’s not to like? Here’s a clip of our man Keisse in the Devil.

The music has improved somewhat, too. Finally, 30 years of Popcorn nightmares have been laid to rest.

Tickets for the next Revolution on January 7 are available here.