Boardman treads boards as curtain rises

Robin Nicholl witnesses dancing girls and rock music as track cycling arrived in Manchester
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The Independent Online
Welcome to the Superdrome, flashed the scoreboard. Amid the dancing girls, roaming spotlights in a darkened arena, and a heavy rock beat, the theatre of track cycling opened on Manchester's velodrome.

Britain's first covered cycling track, whose leaky reputation created basketball history and embarrassed its constructors, hosted a high-calibre, two-day meeting with theatrical trimmings unfamiliar to British track fans.

Saturday's top-of-the-bill clash of the world No 1, Tony Rominger, and the double world champion, Chris Boardman, drew 4,000, a capacity crowd. But "Superdrome certainly will not be a profitable venture on this first meeting," the promoter Alan Rushton said. "We are basing success over four promotions. No one knew the market until we did this.

"We have the names and addresses of everyone who came through the doors. Those people are valuable to us," Rushton said. The empty seats of yesterday emphasised that.

Opened by the Princess Royal five months ago the £9m velodrome now wears a polythene and scaffold protection on its roof, like sticking plaster on the wounded pride of its builders, after one meeting had to be abandoned because rain made the track slippery and basketball promoters set a first in their sport by calling off an indoor match because of rain. Superdrome, with its rock concert imagery, did its best to mop up, but the promoter Rushton, with £500,000 worth of potential sponsors waiting in the wings to be impressed, insisted: "It's going to take cycling nowhere unless you have star names.''

Boardman beat Rominger by two seconds in their 4,000 metres pursuit, an event heralded by dramatic fanfares. It was a far cry from November, when Rominger chose to break the world hour record without spectators, only his second venture on to a track. He rode three kilometres further for his hour best than Boardman had done on the same Bordeaux track in 1993.

After Boardman's performance, there was added inspiration from the British amateur rider, Craig Percival, and the twice world champion, Tony Doyle.

Doyle was back to winning form, aided by pain-killing injections to ease a 10-week old back injury. "Ideally, I should not be racing, but I have been told that I can do no long-term damage,'' he said.

Percival took on and beat world champions, obviously profiting from training on an indoor track.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 29