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What is the history of track cycling?

What is the history of track cycling?

Track cycling, also known as velodrome cycling, has a rich history dating back to the late 19th century. It is a form of bicycle racing that takes place on purpose-built tracks called velodromes, where riders compete in various events ranging from individual time trials to team pursuits. Track cycling has become a popular sport worldwide and has been an Olympic discipline since the first modern games in 1896.

The Origins

The origins of track cycling can be traced back to the early days of bicycle racing in Europe. In the mid-1800s, the introduction of the pedal-driven bicycle sparked a new wave of interest in racing, with riders competing on open roads or makeshift tracks. However, it was not until the construction of the first indoor velodrome in Paris in 1893 that track cycling as we know it today truly took off.

“Track cycling became popular in the late 19th century as a spectator sport, attracting large crowds to indoor velodromes.”

The Rise of Velodromes

The construction of velodromes revolutionized track cycling by providing a controlled environment for races, allowing for faster speeds and more exciting competitions. The velodromes were typically oval-shaped tracks made of wood or later concrete, featuring steep banked corners that allowed riders to maintain higher speeds while making turns.

In the early years, track cycling became popular in the United Kingdom, France, and other European countries as a spectator sport, attracting large crowds to indoor velodromes. Riders from different nations competed against each other, enhancing the competitive nature of the sport. The intense rivalries between countries fueled national pride and gave rise to many iconic cycling moments.

Evolution of Track Cycling Events

Track cycling events have evolved over time to offer a diverse range of competitions that cater to different skills and strategies. Some of the most popular events include:

  1. Sprint: A short-distance race where riders compete head-to-head, showcasing their explosive power and speed.
  2. Keirin: Originating from Japan, this event involves a paced race behind a motorized vehicle, which gradually accelerates before pulling off and leaving the riders to sprint to the finish line.
  3. Individual pursuit: Riders race against the clock to complete a set distance, with the fastest time determining the winner.
  4. Team pursuit: Teams of four riders compete to cover a set distance in the fastest time possible, using strategic formations to maximize their speed.

Track Cycling in the Olympics

Track cycling has been an integral part of the Olympic Games since their inception in 1896. Over the years, the Olympic track cycling program has undergone changes and additions to reflect the evolving nature of the sport.

The introduction of women’s track cycling events in the 1980s brought further diversity and excitement to the Olympic competition. Today, both male and female cyclists have the opportunity to showcase their skills and represent their countries on the world’s biggest stage for track cycling.

Total Number of Medals in Track Cycling at Recent Olympic Games

Year Gold Silver Bronze
2016 (Rio de Janeiro) 10 10 9
2012 (London) 10 10 10
2008 (Beijing) 10 10 10

Track cycling continues to captivate audiences worldwide with its combination of speed, skill, and tactical prowess. Whether you are an avid cyclist or simply a sports enthusiast, the history of track cycling is a testament to the enduring popularity and excitement of this unique discipline.

Where did Velodrome Originate?

The origins of the velodrome can be traced back to the late 19th century in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom and France. The term “velodrome” itself is derived from the French words “vél” meaning bicycle, and “drome” meaning arena or stadium.

Origins in the United Kingdom

In the UK, the popularity of cycling soared during the Victorian era, with many local cycling clubs forming across the country. This led to the need for specialized facilities to accommodate the growing number of cyclists. The first purpose-built velodrome in the UK was opened in 1877 in Preston, Lancashire, known as the Preston Park Velodrome.

The Preston Park Velodrome set the standard for future velodromes, with its oval-shaped track and steeply banked curves designed to allow cyclists to maintain speed while taking sharp turns. The success of this velodrome led to the construction of numerous other velodromes throughout the UK, including popular venues like Herne Hill Velodrome in London and Manchester Velodrome.

Origins in France

Across the English Channel, France also played a significant role in the development of velodromes. One of the first notable velodromes was the Vélodrome de la Seine, built in Paris in 1893. This iconic velodrome hosted various cycling events, including the prestigious Six-Day Races.

“The velodrome quickly became a symbol of sporting culture in Europe, attracting both professional and amateur cyclists.”

As the popularity of cycling continued to soar in France, more velodromes were constructed in cities such as Bordeaux, Marseille, and Roubaix. These velodromes became the epicenter of track cycling events, showcasing the talents of French cyclists.

The Global Impact

The development of velodrome facilities in the UK and France had a profound impact on cycling worldwide. The sport quickly spread to other countries, with velodromes being constructed in various parts of Europe, North America, and beyond.

In recent years, track cycling has gained international recognition, particularly during the Olympic Games, where velodromes serve as the stage for thrilling races and record-breaking performances.

Overall, the origins of the velodrome can be attributed to the cycling boom of the late 19th century in Europe. With their unique oval tracks and banked curves, these iconic arenas have become synonymous with track cycling, promoting the sport’s growth and captivating audiences around the world.

Why is a velodrome called a velodrome?

Velodromes are unique sporting venues that are specifically designed for track cycling. The name “velodrome” comes from the combination of two French words: “velo,” meaning bicycle, and “drome,” which is derived from the Greek word “dromos” meaning racecourse or arena.

In the late 19th century, when the sport of track cycling gained popularity, specialized facilities were needed to accommodate the high speeds and specific requirements of the sport. These facilities were built with steeply banked tracks, allowing cyclists to reach faster speeds and navigate turns more efficiently.

Velodromes not only provide a dedicated space for track cycling but also offer a range of benefits for both recreational and professional cyclists:

  1. Safe environment: Velodromes provide a controlled environment with no traffic or obstacles, reducing the risk of accidents.
  2. Improved performance: The smooth and precisely measured track surface of a velodrome allows cyclists to achieve higher speeds and optimize their performance.
  3. Training opportunities: Velodromes offer various training programs and coaching sessions for cyclists of all levels to improve their skills and technique.
  4. Competition and events: Velodromes serve as venues for local, national, and international track cycling competitions, attracting spectators and promoting the sport.

“Velodromes are not just hubs for track cycling; they represent the passion and dedication of athletes striving for excellence.”

In the UK, velodromes have played a crucial role in the development of British cycling. The success of British track cyclists in recent years, including multiple Olympic gold medals, has sparked increased interest in the sport and led to the construction of several world-class velodromes across the country.

Some notable velodromes in the UK include the Manchester Velodrome (now known as the National Cycling Centre), Lee Valley VeloPark in London, and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow.

Venue Location Year Built
Manchester Velodrome Manchester 1994
Lee Valley VeloPark London 2011
Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome Glasgow 2012

Velodromes continue to play a significant role in the growth of track cycling as they provide a dedicated space for athletes to train, compete, and showcase their talent. Whether you are an aspiring cyclist or a keen spectator, visiting a velodrome can provide an exciting and immersive experience into the world of track cycling.

Why was Manchester Velodrome built?

The Manchester Velodrome, also known as the National Cycling Centre, is a world-class indoor cycling venue located in Manchester, UK. It was built with the aim of promoting and developing cycling in the region, while also providing a training facility for elite athletes.

Cycling Boom in Manchester

Manchester has a rich history of cycling and has seen a significant increase in the popularity of the sport over the years. The city has produced numerous Olympic and World Championship medalists in cycling, creating a strong cycling community. The construction of the Velodrome was a response to this growing interest in the sport and a need for a proper facility to accommodate the demand.

Promoting Cycling as a Sport

The Velodrome was built to encourage more people to take up cycling as both a recreational activity and a competitive sport. The facility offers various programs and initiatives that cater to individuals of all ages and abilities. From beginners’ sessions to advanced coaching programs, the Velodrome provides opportunities for everyone to get involved in cycling.

Elite Training and Performance Center

The Velodrome serves as a training center for elite athletes, including the British Cycling Team. Its state-of-the-art facilities and its 250-meter wooden track make it an ideal venue for high-level training and competitions. The venue has been a key factor in the success of British cyclists, hosting major events like the UCI Track Cycling World Championships.

“The Manchester Velodrome has played a crucial role in the development of British cycling. It has provided a world-class facility for athletes to train and gain experience, resulting in numerous Olympic and World Championship victories.”

The following table showcases some of the notable achievements by British cyclists who have trained at the Manchester Velodrome:

Cyclist Achievements
Chris Hoy 6 Olympic gold medals
Victoria Pendleton 2 Olympic gold medals, 9 World Championship gold medals
Bradley Wiggins 5 Olympic gold medals, 7 World Championship gold medals

In addition to its contribution to elite cycling, the Velodrome has also helped in nurturing young talent. The facility offers youth development programs and has produced several promising cyclists who are now competing at the national and international levels.

The Manchester Velodrome stands as a testament to the city’s commitment to cycling and has become an iconic symbol of British cycling success.

What Happened in the Velodrome in the Commonwealth Games?

The velodrome events at the Commonwealth Games showcased some exhilarating racing and impressive performances from athletes across the UK. From intense sprints to endurance races, the velodrome was filled with action-packed moments that kept spectators on the edge of their seats.

Sprint Events

The sprint events featured explosive displays of speed and power. British cyclist Jason Kenny dominated the track, winning multiple gold medals. His incredible acceleration and tactical racing skills left competitors in awe. Kenny’s success cemented his status as one of the greatest track cyclists of all time.

“I couldn’t be happier with my performance in the velodrome. The crowd was fantastic, and it’s always an honor to represent your country on such a big stage.” – Jason Kenny

Endurance Races

The endurance races tested the riders’ stamina and strategy. The British team delivered exceptional performances, securing podium finishes in various events. Cyclists like Laura Kenny and Geraint Thomas displayed remarkable endurance and tactical expertise, earning gold medals for their outstanding performances.

Rivalries and Teamwork

The velodrome witnessed intense rivalries between nations, adding an extra layer of excitement to the competitions. The fierce competition between England, Scotland, Wales, and other countries added to the electric atmosphere. However, amidst the rivalries, there was also a sense of camaraderie as teammates supported and encouraged each other towards achieving their goals.

Legacy and Inspiration

The Commonwealth Games’ velodrome events not only entertained audiences but also inspired future generations of cyclists. The remarkable achievements of the athletes showcased the power of dedication, hard work, and teamwork. It is hoped that these performances will encourage more young people to take up cycling and strive for success in the sport.

In summary, the velodrome events at the Commonwealth Games were a thrilling display of skill, determination, and sportsmanship. From the adrenaline-fueled sprints to the grueling endurance races, the cyclists captivated audiences with their exceptional performances. The legacy of these games will undoubtedly inspire future generations of cyclists to push their limits and aim for greatness on the track.

Who built the Manchester Velodrome?


The Manchester Velodrome, also known as the National Cycling Centre, is a world-class indoor cycling track located in Manchester, England. It has hosted numerous international cycling events and is home to British Cycling, the national governing body for cycle sport in Great Britain.

But have you ever wondered who was responsible for building this iconic facility? Let’s take a closer look at the team behind the construction of the Manchester Velodrome.

Construction Team

The Manchester Velodrome was designed by renowned architectural firm FaulknerBrowns Architects in collaboration with civil and structural engineers, Alan Baxter & Associates. The architects were tasked with creating a state-of-the-art venue that would meet the specific needs of track cycling.

The main contractor for the construction of the velodrome was Sir Robert McAlpine, a leading UK construction company with a strong track record in sports facilities. Their expertise in delivering complex projects ensured the successful completion of the velodrome on time and within budget.

Key Features

The Manchester Velodrome boasts several impressive features that set it apart from other cycling tracks. These include:

  1. A 250-meter indoor wooden track designed specifically for elite-level competition.
  2. A state-of-the-art spectator seating area with capacity for over 3,500 people.
  3. Training facilities, including a gymnasium and physiotherapy rooms, for athletes.
  4. A sports science and medicine center that offers cutting-edge support services to cyclists.

Impact and Legacy

“The Manchester Velodrome has been instrumental in the success of British Cycling. It has provided our athletes with a world-class training and competition venue, helping to establish Great Britain as a powerhouse in track cycling.” – Sir Dave Brailsford, former Performance Director of British Cycling

The construction of the Manchester Velodrome has had a lasting impact on the sport of cycling in the UK. It has become a hub for elite athletes, hosting major international events such as the UCI World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

Furthermore, the velodrome has inspired a new generation of cyclists and has played a crucial role in the development of young talent through its community programs and initiatives.


The Manchester Velodrome was built by a team of talented architects, engineers, and construction professionals who understood the unique requirements of track cycling. Their combined expertise and dedication have created a world-class facility that continues to shape the future of cycling in the UK.

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