Two wheels good

Manchester to remain British cycling's HQ, says Antonia Charlesworth

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The Manchester Velodrome will continue to be the home of British cycling after its cyclists took home seven of the first ten gold medals in the sport at London 2012.

Despite fears that the focus of the sport would shift from Manchester to the new Olympic velodrome in London, Salford-based Sir Chris Hoy – who won two golds at the games, insisted Manchester was the right home for British cycling. And British Cycling president Brian Cookson also insisted there were no plans to move the sport’s headquarters south.

Alongside Hoy, Fallowfield’s Laura Trott collected a solo and a team gold, Wilmslow’s Victoria Pendleton picked up a gold and silver medal before she hung up her cycling shorts, and Bolton-based Jason Kenny added another two to the brimming pot of gold.

The GB cycling team has been based at the Velodrome in Clayton since its controversial beginnings. It was built in 1994 as part of Manchester’s bid for the 2000 Olympics. Critics called it a white elephant – the £10 million investment in a declining sport was risky and in 1996 Manchester City Council had to pay its £130,000 utility bill as British cycling faced bankruptcy. But in 2002 the track took centre stage in the Commonwealth Games and helped kick-start regeneration in east Manchester.

Fears subsided

The Velodrome-based team went on to collect five gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and hopes were high that the 2012 Olympic cycling would be held there. Instead a new £22 million velodrome was built in East London after organisers insisted that the host city was bound to hold the cycling due to International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules.

Critics however said exceptions were possible to these IOC rules and that holding cycling in Manchester would have made a considerable saving when the games were going way over budget.

Fears that the new velodrome would steal focus from the Manchester track seem to have subsided since the success of the GB cycling team.

Cookson told the Manchester Evening News last week: “Manchester Council have been extremely loyal to us and we will be repaying that loyalty.

“The Manchester Velodrome is a key element of British cycling and the fact that we have world class facilities and the support of Manchester Council is crucial to our success.”

Manchester’s success has been echoed across the Pennines, with five of Yorkshire’s athletes collecting gold medals. As The Big Issue in the North went to press, the region had more gold medalists than Canada, South Africa or Japan, meaning if it were a country, the region would sit in the top 15 on the medals table.

Photo of Laura Trott: Getty/Adidas

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