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Who invented the velodrome?

Who Invented the Velodrome?

A Brief History of Velodromes

Velodromes, with their iconic oval-shaped tracks, have become synonymous with track cycling. These specialized facilities provide a dedicated space for cyclists to practice and compete, offering a controlled environment optimized for high-speed cycling. But who can be credited with inventing the velodrome?

The concept of velodromes dates back to the late 19th century when interest in cycling as a sport began to surge. As bicycle technology advanced, so did the need for purpose-built tracks that allowed riders to fully explore the potential of their machines. Velodromes were designed to cater specifically to track cycling events, offering a smooth surface with banked corners to enable riders to maintain speed and safety during intense races.

The Invention of the Velodrome

While many individuals contributed to the development of velodromes, the credit for inventing the velodrome as we know it today goes to Pierre Giffard, a French journalist, and publisher.

Pierre Giffard, who founded the French newspaper Le Petit Journal, was an avid supporter of cycling. He recognized the need for a specialized facility that would facilitate the growth of the sport and provide a platform for competitive cycling events. In 1893, he decided to take matters into his own hands and constructed a temporary velodrome in Paris for the Bordeaux-Paris race, one of the most prestigious long-distance cycling events in France at the time.

Giffard’s velodrome featured a circular wooden track with banked turns, allowing cyclists to maintain higher speeds throughout the race. The success of this temporary velodrome led to the establishment of the first permanent indoor velodrome in Paris, known as Vélodrome d’Hiver (Winter Velodrome). It quickly became a popular venue for various cycling events and set the standard for future velodrome designs.

Velodromes in the United Kingdom

While Pierre Giffard’s contribution laid the foundation for velodromes globally, the development of velodromes in the United Kingdom can be attributed to another individual – Ralph Schurmann, an English cyclist. Schurmann, who was inspired by his experiences racing on velodromes in continental Europe, played a crucial role in bringing this concept to the UK.

In 1877, Schurmann, along with his brother Lionel, constructed their own velodrome in Preston Park, Brighton. This was the first permanent velodrome built in the United Kingdom, providing British cyclists with a dedicated facility to train and compete. The success of this venture encouraged the construction of several other velodromes across the country, thereby solidifying the sport’s popularity and paving the way for the growth of track cycling in the UK.

The Evolution of Velodrome Design

Since the invention of the velodrome, the design and construction of these facilities have evolved significantly. Modern velodromes now feature advanced materials, such as Siberian pine, to create smooth and durable cycling surfaces. The tracks are meticulously engineered to ensure perfect curves and gradients, enabling cyclists to achieve optimal speeds while maintaining control.

Furthermore, advancements in technology have enabled the creation of indoor velodromes that allow year-round training and competition regardless of weather conditions. These state-of-the-art venues often incorporate temperature and humidity control systems to provide optimal racing conditions, making them ideal for hosting international cycling events.


In conclusion, the credit for inventing the velodrome goes to Pierre Giffard, whose vision and efforts led to the establishment of the first permanent velodrome in Paris. However, the development of velodromes in the United Kingdom can be attributed to Ralph Schurmann, who introduced this concept to British cyclists by constructing the first velodrome in Brighton.

Velodromes have since become important hubs for track cycling, enabling athletes to push boundaries and achieve remarkable speeds on their bikes. As technology continues to advance, velodrome design will likely evolve further, delivering even more thrilling experiences for both athletes and spectators alike.

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