Today, while the Christian world spends their time in quiet contemplation, recognizing the events that lead up to their Saviour’s passing (and resurrection), there was a different kind of gathering taking place in South London, at a not too dissimilar spiritual realm, the Herne Hill Velodrome. For if sport was ever a reflection of someone’s beliefs then cycling ranks right up there with the likes of football, cricket and rugby.
This was my first visit to the only remaining facility still in use when the Olympics last visited London in 1948. And at 64 years of age, the velodrome still knows how to draw a crowd.
Having undergone a massive refurbishment, the track itself having been re-sealed, the public interest in track (and cycling as a whole in the UK) has noticeably increased as we head towards London 2012. Thinking that the facility very nearly went the way of the dodo was a real threat for the surrounding community in 2011. But a campaign called, Save the Herne Hill Velodrome brought it back into working order (and is in need of continual support). It only takes the purchase of smart cycling cap to show you care!
With the Good Friday Meet already underway, I arrived at around 1pm on my bike, having cycled through London from Paddington Station – just in time for the second-half of the day’s events. I love cycling through the streets of the big city, and while you have to have your wits about you at all times, the experience of riding around Hyde Park and Marble Arch on a bright, spring day is something not to be passed up. Consider what you’re missing when you head below ground to take the subway next time – there’s quite a lot to be seen!
The sight that greeted me as I walked through the archways had me feel at home in a heartbeat. Bikes, of all shapes and sizes, fixies, single-speeds and geared varieties, were all around me (I even saw Ned Boulting, struggling unlock his kid’s bike, at the end of the day!) And for good reason too because finding a place to lock up was a challenge. But as one spectator said while helping me hold my own bike to the railing above me, “there’s little risk of anything getting knicked here today,” I knew I had arrived!
Now I’m not too familiar with the variety and format of many of the races, but I am learning the difference between such events like the ‘Devil takes the Hindmost’, the Scratch races and the Kierin. The Sprint events are my favourite, and so are the Devil endurance runs because each take as much brains to ride as they do physical strength.
The meet itself was a smoothly run-affair, the commentary was spot on and the atmosphere was fantastic. With jumble sales of vintage tops and old race programmes, DVDs and books to browse through you could easily forget that there was racing to watch! But what’s even better than that is when you can spend it in the sun with friends and fellow gear-heads.
Now that’s a great #30DaysofBiking Day!