Sportsthoughts (128) – An afternoon at the Olympic veldodrome

On Saturday we had a family trip to the Olympic velodrome, to watch part of the Revolution series of elite cycle races, which take place in London, Manchester and Glasgow. It was an opportunity to see how things are looking at the Olympics site these days and to see some seriously good racing.

I’m pleased to say it was a big thumbs up for everything!

And the velodrome was looking good. This is a photo taken after the afternoon event finished. The weather wasn’t the best.

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The centrepiece of the afternoon was Sarah Storey’s  – one of Britain’s great Paralympic champions – attempt on the world hour record. This was set in 2003 by Dutch cyclist Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsen, in Mexico City; so at altitude. She had ridden 46.065 km; Sarah just fell short, managing 45.502 km. She broke a few records on the way, and the whole thing was a wonderful exhibition, with the tension and excitement building as the minutes ticked away. I’d wondered how you would sit through one person riding around a 250m metre circuit, for an hour; but it was genuinely engrossing.

Here are some photos of Sarah going for it, and doing a lap of honour after she’d recovered a little from the effort, and, no doubt, the disappointment.

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The afternoon session began at 1pm, with some men’s 200m time trials, ahead of knock out stages later. The timed distance is slightly less than the circuit, which is 250m. I know this because a 10Km race was 40 laps, a 20km race, 80. The races were over in a flash, but the acceleration through the last bend was impressive. Best time was from Eddie Dawkins of New Zealand, and he ended up winning the final. The quarter finals were fun, because you get that silly cat and mouse stuff, where both riders dawdle along, waiting for or planning, the first move.

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The programme of races is quite varied, to keep the interest of the audience. It works really well. The strangest race was the Derny (10km), where each rider has a lead man on a small motorbike. As well as adding to the spectacle, the lead riders create a slipstream, which which allows the cyclists to go faster. All I can say is that it was weird, but impressive. Peter Kennaugh, one of the British, Sky riders, won, so we were all happy.

First photo is the lead racers getting ready for the final. Not the most athletic bunch! A couple of the race and then Peter Kennaugh winding down.

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There was real skill involved, though. I couldn’t see how the cyclists could communicate with the leads about accelerating or slowing. It was too noisy to shout and they didn’t have radio, as far as I could see. I guess it was just feel; maybe if the cyclist’s front wheel got really close to their back one. And of course, all the practice beforehand.

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The women’s 20km points race featured one of Britain’s Olympic stars, Laura Trott. And she won on the day, to great acclaim.  The way this race works is that after every ten laps (out of eighty) there is a one lap sprint. The winner gets five points, second 3, third 2 and fourth 1. In addition, if you lap someone you get 20 points. There might also be something for lapping the entire field – this happened in the later men’s race. Having the sprint every ten laps adds to the excitement hugely. And brings in all sorts of tactics. You just have to remember who is in the lead overall, as lapped riders continue and participate in the sprints.

I didn’t get a very clear photo of Laura winning, but here are a couple on her journey. She is in blue. The first is just the women waiting for their turn. In the second photo, she is poised to overtake everyone and win the sprint. The third is a bit blurry as she is still riding quite fast with the flowers she got for winning, which were about to be hurled into the crowd.

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The men’s points race, also over 20km, had a lot more riders, but they were all comprehensively out-raced by the Australian, Glenn O’Shea. The most powerful display of the day. Peter Kennaugh beat him in the Derny; but he was supreme in this race, lapping everyone, and some people twice.

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The last race featured eight of the women who’d been in the points race, including Laura Trott. This time it was the Elimination. Every two laps, the rider at the back of the field was eliminated until two were left to slug out the final two laps. So you had to be very careful about pacing yourself at the back! The crowd were right behind Laura, of course, and she won this as well. A pretty good day for the British riders.

A great day’s entertainment. The venue is awesome, and the cycling befits it.

On the way back to Stratford station we walked through the Olympic site. I wanted to see how the future West Ham stadium was looking.

It’s alright!

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About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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6 Responses to Sportsthoughts (128) – An afternoon at the Olympic veldodrome

  1. The points races are a lot of fun.

    Just curious – does altitude make a difference in an indoor setting?

    • John S says:

      Just added a bit on the Elimination too. Forgot that last night. I think the commentator said that the record was set at the Mexico City Olympic stadium, so outdoors – if you can cycle on a running track. But I’m sure altitude affects indoors too.

  2. Resa says:

    The races seem exciting…. but West Ham getting a new stadium is exciting! You must be thrilled!

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