In September 2011, Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson reopened Herne Hill track with its new state-of-the-art surface. It concluded a complex and detailed initial project phase, funded and managed by British Cycling, with additional investment from a bequest by a life-long track cycling fan.
The Herne Hill Velodrome in South London, the last remaining finals venue from the 1948 Olympic Games that is still in active use, has been given a new lease of life thanks to significant investment from British Cycling. A state-of-the-art track has been laid at the historic venue which was officially reopened today by Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics.
The track has been in a state of disrepair for some time, but thanks to a long-term agreement reached earlier this year between the landowners, The Dulwich Estate, and British Cycling, investment could be made in bringing the track up-to-date.
Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, said: "It is fitting that the year before London 2012, we are able to celebrate the refurbishment of the track at one of the key venues from the 1948 Games. As the popularity of cycling continues to grow, it is vital that people are provided with the facilities and opportunities to ride their bikes, be they young people starting out, serious racers, or others simply cycling to keep fit. Thanks to the new track that has been laid Herne Hill now takes its place as one of the country's leading cycling facilities.
"Within the Sport Minister side of my role I see British Cycling as the star pupil. They have managed to excel at the Olympic and Paralympic level, and get more people cycling in the communities. It is a trick very few sports have mastered and is worthy of recognition. I am particularly pleased to see British Cycling investing in community facilities such as these at Herne Hill. Their commitment to this project says a lot about the sort of organisation they are."
Leonard Lyes (highlighted) with his Sydenham Wheelers clubmates in 1954
The £500,000 project was funded by British Cycling through its Sport England investment and from a financial bequest left to British Cycling for use ‘in the pursuit of track cycling' by London resident and life-long supporter of the Herne Hill Velodrome, Leonard Lyes. Work began in July and has seen the track re-surfaced with a special velodrome-specific covering called ‘MasterTrack', developed in conjunction with Tarmac, as well as a new outer Safety Fence and Safety Zone run-off area inside the track. The project was planned and overseen by British Cycling's National Facilities Manager Dave Cockram, and Facilities Officer Patrick Flanagan.
British Cycling President, Brian Cookson, said: "It's fantastic to be here today and see the first of what we hope will be a number of improvements resulting directly from the new agreement between British Cycling and The Dulwich Estate. Getting a longer-term lease in place was essential in terms of our ability to invest in the new track and make best use of the generous donation from Leonard Lyes. I'm sure he'll be looking down today with a smile on his face - we know Herne Hill was close to his heart and this new track will mean it can continue to bring the joy and excitement of cycling to the whole community for many years to come.
"We are well on the way to achieving the participation targets set out in our Whole Sport Plan for 2009-2013 and each year we invest around £2 million in building new and improving existing facilities to help ensure the increasing number of people who want to ride their bikes can do so. This is particularly important for those at the start of their cycling career to help set them off on the right footing. We have become the number one cycling nation in the world because our riders have been able to develop their careers from an early age in the right environment and benefiting from the right facilities. This continued investment, which this year alone has also seen the opening of new facilities in Bournemouth and Blackpool amongst others, will help ensure the next generation of champions can get off to the best possible start."
Herne Hill is home to the historic Good Friday Meeting - one of the most distinctive and atmospheric events in the cycling calendar. It is also the track on which triple Olympic Champion Bradley Wiggins first started racing at the age of 12.
Wiggins said: "I have such fond memories of Herne Hill which played an important role in my development as a rider. I remember the buzz I got from racing there when I was younger and that really gave me the bug for the sport. It's fantastic to see Herne Hill benefiting from this investment - it's such an iconic facility not just for the local area but for the whole British cycling scene. I hope the new track means more young people head down to Herne Hill to learn the ropes, develop their skills and, who knows, start their journey towards Olympic success."
Leading a ceremonial first lap at the track today was Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman MBE, who was accompanied by Brian Cookson and riders from the local area. The first major meet at the track since the track was re-laid takes place this Sunday with the Dave Creasy Memorial Meeting which starts at 11am. Meanwhile, the fundraising efforts of the Save the Velodrome Campaign provides further optimism that the resurfacing marks the start of wide-ranging improvements at the facility as a whole.