It’s late October in east Manchester. The velodrome sits in the damp dark night, squat like a spaceship on its grassy knoll, beams of light emanating from slits in its roof. Outside a queue is forming, snaking down the steps towards the road. Punters are rubbing hands, shuffling from foot to foot. A ten year old boy pulls up his coat zip and stuffs cold hands into pockets. Underneath the coat, the purple of his Halesowen A&CC jersey - on his head a Team Sky cap. His dad is chatting to his neighbour, shoulders shrugged against the chill. They laugh, nod and espouse cycling punditry as they shuffle closer to the door, clutching their Revolution tickets.
Inside it’s hot and riders’ pens are already alive with pre-race activity. Jerseys and baselayers are hung over the galvanised metal barriers separating the team pens. Riders are warming up, zoned out on the rollers, iPods on shuffle.
Up in the stands the uniform blue-green of the velodrome seating is being slowly dissolved by spectators, who fill up the main stands that loom like giant eyelids over the brightly lit orb of the track. At its pupil, some riders are loosening their legs in the paddock. In hospitality a tall thin barman wearing an immaculate white shirt is polishing champagne flutes and beer glasses. Commissaires shuffle papers on the long table adjacent to the finish straight while the podium girl straightens her dress and checks the orange winners’ flowers amassed near the finish line. Music pumps out of the PA. A technician with an earpiece inspects the Siberian pine.
Revolution 33 marks the beginning of the ninth season for the series. Launched in the winter of 2003, it was an instant hit, filling the velodrome with eager cycling fans and their families, thanks to a packed programme of non-stop action, track racing’s biggest names, music, beer, wine, coffee, pancakes, chips, burgers and two-stroke oil. It’s a winning formula, the closest the UK has seen to the legendary continental Six-Day meetings at Ghent or Amsterdam. Revolution is, and has always been, much more than thrilling racing. It’s a night out at the track – hot, noisy and exciting. As the years have passed, Revolution has seen constant evolution – a tweak of the race programme here, the addition of a championship points system there – all aimed at keeping the fans coming back.
Down in track centre, as the event got underway we spoke to James Pope, Commercial Director of Face Partnership, the company behind Revolution. James gave us a great insight into the planning that goes into the event and what Revolution fans can expect in the future:
“There’s masses of work that goes into this, we’ve been working on it for the last six months, so building up you’ve got to do all the sponsorship, commercial deals, that’s pretty much all year round. The team that actually run the event are a well oiled machine; they’ve been doing it since 2003 so those guys know what they’re doing.
“We’re really trying to take it up to a new level. The original concept was created to blend entertainment and world class racing and it was designed to pull spectators back into the velodrome and was successful and we’ve built it from there. Having the flexibility to design the race programme and condense it into one night it is very different from championship racing.
“Looking ahead to the future we’re looking to run a national series with one round taking place in Glasgow, London and Manchester. Hopefully by 2013 there will be three events across three locations.”
The latest evolution of the series saw the Revolution Team Championship tweaked to just encompass the elite endurance events, leaving the sprint contest as a standalone event. Alex Dowsett of Sky Procycling took the first of the endurance events, the Devil/Scratch, the TT specialist showing his solo speed, almost lapping the field on his way to victory. It was another Sky rider, Russell Downing, who showed similar dominance in the points race, gaining a lap along with three other riders and scoring strongly in the sprints to assure victory despite strong resistance from fast road man David McLoughlin. Leif Lampeter and Jon Mould, riding in the team of clothing brand Howies won the 1km Madison time trial to avert the Sky landslide while Sam Harrison, riding under the Rouleur livery, took victory in the final endurance contest of the night, the 10km scratch, counter-attacking with just a few laps to go after an earlier break from the combative Downing and O’Loughlin was reeled in. Despite a number of race wins for Sky, it was Rouleur who led the team competition at the end of the meeting, with Team UK Youth second and Sky in third.
The Future Stars contests are always the most hotly contested of Revolution’s offerings and have, over the seasons, thrown up tight, intriguing contests and tales of utter dominance in equal measure. And so it was at Revolution 33 – Emily Kay superlative in the Girls contest, winning all three races; the points, the six lap dash and the scratch with the fearsome combination of an intuitive racer’s mind and unmatched sprinting prowess. In the points, Kay scored in every sprint, the six lap dash was a gift for Kay’s fast twitch physiology, while her positioning in the final laps of the scratch was an object lesson in race tactics, followed up by a ruthless final sprint.
It was a different story in the Boys' contest. With former Future Stars luminary Doull now joining previous winners Harrison and Burke in the elite ranks, a power vacuum has left the battlefield wide open this year. Revolution 33 saw the spoils of war split between Jacob Scott, Ryan Whatmough and Oliver Wood, winning the Scratch, Dash and Points respectively. Wood emerged at the end of the night with a slender lead, thanks to more consistent finishing in all three events.
Throughout its nine year history, Revolution has never been afraid to throw a curved ball into the event programme. Few will forget season one’s fancy dress action, with burly Scot Craig Maclean a very convincing Incredible Hulk. Fast forward to 2011 and Craig is still here and fighting fit, taking time out to speak to us amid the sprint competition, just after beating Junior World Champ John Paul in the sprint quarters:
"It’s always going to be tough against a world champion. It’s the only chance I get to ride a solo bike having moved to the tandem. It’s a great atmosphere; it’s the best race in Britain really in terms of atmosphere. The World Cups are big but it’s a lot more serious, but Revolution’s are the best one day races without a doubt. As long as they ask me I’ll [continue to] turn up and try not to look too silly!”
No fancy dress for Maclean this time but awesome entertainment of a different hue. For Revolution 33, the panto moment came midway through proceedings, with round the world record holder Vin Cox and pretender to the throne Sean Conway locking horns in a full laden touring bike pursuit challenge. Cox won by a whisker but the result was irrelevant – Revolution had once again offered up light relief amid its packed schedule. Revolution’s organisers have also brought some Six-Day specialities to the mix, showcasing the 1km Madison Time Trial and, like tonight, the esoteric (or just plain baffling) Australian Pursuit won, quite accidentally it appeared, by Jens Mouris.
Revolution is all about crowd pleasing action and organisers know that for all those punters who love endurance racing there are those whose fix lies in the sprint. Not to disappoint, a full sprint contest and mini Keirin was laid on, with Dave Daniell dominant in the Revolution Sprint, beating teammate Kian Emadi in a great final, which saw Daniell using his kilo speed to great effect, unloading from a long way out and letting Emadi chase him down. Kian came close but Daniell clearly hadn’t lost form since his excellent display at the Nationals. However it would be remiss to neglect mentioning the fact that the impressive Emadi disposed of Frenchmen Theirry Jollet and World Team Sprint Champion Michael D’Almeida on his way to his date with Daniell.
After his victory Daniell spoke to us, neatly summing up Revolution's fine balance of fun and fierce racing, and it's importance to competitors and spectators alike:
“It’s awesome coming to Revolution because you get a good crowd, atmosphere and decent racing, its good fun and to race with a world champion in Michael D'Almeida and a few other guys in the team. It’s brilliant to have this level of racing in front a home crowd.
“You come here and the crowds are really good, they only out four on a year, why not put eight on? Why not get as much as you can of these? We need more racing during the year, more practice, more tactics. It’s excellent we come here we get a really good training benefit from them and race against top guys, why not take advantage of something that is in our home country?
“When we are on the track we are going full bore, we always try to win but we do have a laugh when we come off the track here, we let our hair down but we still race hard because that’s how we are going to practice and gain experience.”
Daniell was soon back on track in the Keirin; a one-round, sudden death race, with the grid packed out with world class sprint talent from GB and France. Following his sprint victory all eyes were on Daniell, taking up the rearguard as the derny droned around Manchester’s boards. World Team Sprint champion D’Almeida of France was an obvious threat too. When the derny dropped onto the apron, Daniell made his way to the front and the die looked cast. However it was too much too soon, and experienced campaigner Craig Maclean, who’d been in great form through the sprint contest, overhauled the fading Daniell to take victory.
Despite the evolution some things never change. The three hours of action always goes in the blink of an eye, such is the pace of the programme and the breadth of the offer. And so it came to the finale, the headline event, the Team Sprint, which pitted GB’s Dave Daniell and John Paul against a mighty French duo of Michael d’Almeida and Thierry Jollet. A quintessential cross-channel sporting duel, this time won by France, rounding off a stellar evening of racing.
The riders, mechanics, coaches, commissaries and VIPs cleared from track centre as quickly as they had filled it. The buckets containing winners’ flowers stood empty, the podium girl had kissed her last rider and long since slipped away. The stands too quickly emptied, reverting back to their uniform green-blue. Outside, a few thousand happy punters filed back to their cars, or on into town, having whetted their appetites at Boardman’s bar. Inside, cleaners moved through the stands, picking up litter, black bags in hand. Another Revolution season had been hand-slung into action; another Future Star, Oliver Wood, had been pinned onto the track racing firmament and no-one was any the wiser on how Mouris won the Australian Pursuit.
Selected Results | Full Results (2MB PDF)
1. Alex Dowsett Team Sky
2. Sam Harrison Rouleur
3. Steven Burke UK Youth
Future Stars Girls Points
1. Emily Kay Cunga 11 pts
2. Megan Boyd Maxgear 5 pts
3. Ellie Coster Howies 5 pts
Dave Daniell Beat Kian Emadi
Dave Daniell beat Craig Maclean
Kian Emadi beat Michael D’Almeida
Dave Daniell beat Louis Oliva
Kian Emadi beat Thierry Jollet
Michael D’Almeida beat Phillip Hindes
Craig Maclean beat John Paul
FS Boys Scratch
1. Jacob Scott Chep UK
2. Zac May Howies
3. Jake Ragen Maxgear
1km Madison TT
1. Howies – Leif Lampeter and Jon Mould 58.980
2. Rapha Condor Sharp
3. Sky Pro Cycling
FS Girls 6 Lap Dash
1. Emily Kay Cunga Bikes
2. Melissa Lowther Chep UK
3. Megan Boyd Maxgear Racing
1. Russell Downing Sky Pro Cycling 24 pts
2. David O’Loughlin 15 pts
3. Adam Duggleby 15 pts
FS Boys – 6Lap Dash
1. Oliver Wood Chep UK
2. Adam Lewis Cunga Bikes
3. Chris Lawless Maxgear Racing
1. Jens Mouris Rapha Condor Sharp
2. Steven Burke UK Youth
3. Alex Dowsett Sky Pro Cycling
Round the World Pursuit
1. Vin Cox 2:57.853
2. Sean Conway 2:59.090
Future Stars Girls Scratch 5km
1. Emily Kay Cunga Bikes
2. Ellie Coster Howies
3. Megan Boyd Maxgear Racing
1. Craig Maclean
2. Dave Daniell
Future Stars Boys Points 5km
1. Ryan Whatmough 10 pts
2. Jake Ragen 7 pts
3. Matthew Cross 3 pts
Scratch Race – 10km
1. Sam Harrison Rouleur
2. Steve Burke UK Youth
3. Tom Murray Rouleur
Team Sprint Challenge – GB vs France
1. France – Jollet and Michael D’Almeida - 31.949
2. GB – John Paul/Dave Daniell - 31.971
1. Rouleur 204 pts
2. UK Youth 190 pts
3. Sky Pro Cycling 165 pts
Future Stars Girls Leader
Future Stars Boys Leader