It's less than 50 days to go until you too can ride the boards on the London 2012 Olympic Velodrome, and race where Laura Trott, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton broke records and won medals on the fastest cycling track in the world.



Since the Olympic and Paralympic Games the affectionately dubbed "Pringle" has been in mothballs as the grounds around it are prepared for the visiting public.  The Olympic BMX course has been re-jigged to make it more suitable - and less back breaking - for mere cycling mortals, whilst a floodlit 1 mile road cycling loop has been built out from the Velodrome, across the river Lea on a new bridge and in to the heart of the Olympic park.   

 Developer's rendition of how the finished VeloPark should look (in less than 50 days!)

Meanwhile the neighbouring massive temporary structure that formed the basketball arena during the Games has been taken down, and the ground cleared.  Tucked away at the back of the velodrome - where catering trucks and dignitary's cars loitered during the Games - a landscaped mountain biking track is being put in place with the help of a few very large diggers to make flat old east London slightly more mountainous.  All this sits within the greater Lee Valley Park, which is stuffed with cycling routes and river towpaths for longer rides.

At the heart of the "Lee Valley VeloPark" (and how I wish they'd called it the Hoy Thigh Thunderdrome instead, but still...) the Velodrome itself is sure to be the star attraction.  This is where Team GB won 7 out of a possible 10 gold Olympic medals, plus one silver and one bronze, and the Paralympic track cycling team netted an additional 15 medals; 5 golds, 7 silver and 3 bronze.




The 1 mile cycling circuit under construction surrounding the Velodrome.

The 250 metre track, which banks at a vertigo-inducing 45 degrees, is surrounded by seating for 6,000 spectators.  The finish line is 5 metres further down the home straight than usual, meaning riders can power harder to the end, netting faster times as they go.  The track bed itself was constructed with 56km of Siberian pine, and is held in place with some 350,000 nails; designed by Ron Webb shortly before his retirement it was the fastest track he built after delivering the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics, and the velodrome used for the 2004 Games in Athens.

Competitive track cycling returns to the Velodrome on March 14th for 3 days with the 5th round of the national Revolution Series taking place.  Some tickets are still available, but are shifting fast since Ed Clancy, Laura Trott and Jason Kenny confirmed they will race.  My experience of watching the Track Cycling World Cup here in 2012 makes me certain that the atmosphere will be electric throughout the competition.  (Though on a slightly more sour note I have no idea why tickets to the Revolution Series in London are a whopping £15 per adult MORE expensive than tickets to the Revolution Series events held in Manchester and Glasgow earlier this year)




Competition returns to the Velodrome on the 15th March - but the public can ride there from the 4th March onwards.

But before then, and for those who don't just want to watch the pros going round and round but would like to take to the track themselves, vouchers for one hour taster sessions are already available to buy (although again I note that an hour long adults taster session at the national track cycling centre in Manchester will set you back just £11 whereas the equivalent in London comes in almost three times more expensive at £30)  Financial quibbles aside, it will be a massive thrill to ride these boards, especially if you spent a certain two weeks in August 2012 glued to the television watching every track event that happened, not to mention that Keirin race.

I was passing through the Olympic park at the weekend and took the above photographs of the Velodrome and the new road cycling circuit under construction; tarmac was being laid, trees and shrubs planted and floodlights were being installed.  

Excited?  You bet I am.  Roll on the 4th of March!