by Peter McCaffery
March 22, 2014, Nanaimo (ISN) – Velodromes have for over a century been a valuable component in competitive cyclists’ racing and skill development. Unlike most sports, most bike racing does not take place at a set venue such as a sports field or arena.
Track racing however is on a small, banked oval track, usually in an easily accessible urban location.
User and spectator fees help maintenance and repair, parents of young riders can watch and be involved in their kids’ development and success, and local., provincial and national level meets can be held to attract riders from afar, provide a competitive cycling showcase, and to increase local interest in all cycling activities.
The ideal velodrome is covered but this is not feasible in Nanaimo as it’s not possible to get enough ‘bums in the seats’ to even start to cover the cost of an indoor velodrome. Happily, we live in the only part of Canada with a climate that will permit almost year-round outdoor velodrome use. So an outdoor bike track can become a centre for both racing and recreational activities. Mid Island Velo Association has, for sometime, organised weekly bicycle racing in the Nanaimo region and is now focusing on a youth programme that will benefit greatly from the building of a local two hundred metre banked track within the city. The club is in the process of putting together a proposal for the city to install such a facility as part of the Beban Park Master Plan. The initial cost of the track would be significantly less than the Rotary Skate Park or the new artificial turf soccer fields and a sizeable percentage of construction would be covered by sponsorships, donations and advertising on and around the track. User fees would go towards maintenance and repair.
The velodrome track can be used for cycling competition and instruction, in-line skating, model car racing, recreational riding, etc. and, of course, the infield has a multitude of uses. velodromes in many locations are used as outdoor, spectator-friendly arenas.
Why in Nanaimo, when there are two other tracks in BC? Well, the Burnaby indoor track is on the Mainland. To get there involves a two hour, expensive ferry ride and then another hour in heavy traffic. The Victoria track is about an hour and a half away and is a 333 metre concrete oval. Only elite athletes will travel to these other venues and at the present time less than ten riders from Comox/Courtenay and Nanaimo make the journey. Beginning riders and those with no short term provincial or national aspirations need to have a local facility they can get to in a short time.
Although the well-known track builders like Peter Junek, Dale Hughes and the Shurmanns keep their designs secret, it does not take rocket science to formulate a safe and fast track with great transitions and with a long lasting weatherproof surface and framework.
Mid Island Velo Association is shortly due to start fund raising for the proposed Nanaimo track and the club will be approaching the city for help with location and site preparation. Arrangements are already in place for Vellendtech to supply bicycles for the project.