Cycling: Boardman sweeps the new boards: Richard Williams reports on the inaugural competition at a pounds 9m velodrome

IN FRANCE and Italy you see bank managers and architects out on their racing bikes on sunny Sunday mornings, sheathed in Dayglo Lycra and burning up the asphalt, their heads full of boyhood dreams of Anquetil and Coppi. To the British, by contrast, cycle racing is a sport that belongs to frosty dawns on the Doncaster by-pass. In that context, yesterday's inaugural meeting at the pounds 9m Manchester velodrome offered a rare opportunity to invest the sport with a little glamour. A little, but not too much.

While the great names of contemporary cycling - Bortolami, Chiappucci, Fondriest, Millar, Mottet, Hampsten and Ugrumov - were gathering in the royal park of Monza for the start of the 88th Giro di Lombardia, the last classic road race of the European season, drizzly Manchester played host to Ghijselinck, Stirratt, Rozendaal, Whitcombe and De Peuter: a scratch collection of 50- odd riders from eight nations competing in a varied programme of sprints, pursuits, keirins, points races and devil- take-the-hindmosts. Denmark, who replaced Italy at three days' notice, eventually won the competition, with Britain and France in joint-second place.

Conceived as part of Manchester's bid for the 2000 Olympic Games, the velodrome went ahead despite the failure of that venture. Now, operating under the title of the National Cycling Centre and run by the British Cycling Federation on behalf of the Sports Council, it will host the World Track Championships in 1996.

Built on the site of the old Stuart Street power station, the new stadium is quite a thing of beauty. The track, 250 metres of pale blond Baltic pine strips, banked at 12.5 degrees on the straights and 42 degrees on the curves, is encased in a dramatic oyster-shaped shell, with a fine lattice-work aluminium roof. It is Britain's first indoor velodrome, and to help pay the bills its central floor will provide facilities for other sports, including basketball and table tennis.

Unsurprisingly, its ambience is modern and antiseptic, far from the ramshackle pastis- and-Gauloises mood of the old continental indoor tracks which host the winter six-day races. Perhaps it will never acquire such an atmosphere - but the organisers could make a start by providing decent catering facilities. A few curling cheese sandwiches, chocolate bars and cans of Coke offered a poor welcome to families who had paid pounds 10 a head for this inaugural gala.

The big attraction at yesterday's meeting was Chris Boardman, Britain's gold medal winner in the 4,000m pursuit at the 1992 Olympics and at this year's world championships in Palermo. In what was billed as a 'revenge match', Boardman faced Francis Moreau, the French rider who took the silver in Sicily. Still recovering from a virus which forced him out of a time trial on Merseyside last Sunday, the Englishman lost more than two seconds to his Gan team-mate over the first quarter of the race, both of them whirring round on the revolutionary carbon-framed Lotus bicycles. But the world champion's strength told, and with two laps to go, the rainbow jersey took the lead, thrusting his black machine past the finishing gun with an advantage of 2.1sec.

Boardman had been swept along by waves of applause from the stands. The velodrome holds 3,500 spectators, and there were perhaps 300 empty seats yesterday, although the president of the BCF had taken the precaution of selling the stadium's specially constructed press seats to the public - a novel form of public relations.

The velodrome is about five miles from the site of the old Fallowfield stadium, once owned by Reg Harris, whose bronze statue, overlooking the track's south curve, was unveiled by his widow midway through the afternoon. Born in nearby Bury, and a hero to rank with Denis Compton, Stanley Matthews and Stirling Moss in the minds of Eagle- reading schoolboys of the 1950s, Harris had been wounded in a tank battle in the Western Desert before becoming the world amateur sprint champion in 1947. The following year he recovered from a broken neck in a car crash to win two silver medals at the London Olympics, after a row with the British team authorities when he quit their Herne Hill training camp to prepare on his own at Fallowfield. Leaving the amateurs behind for good, he won the world professional sprint champion four times between 1949 and 1954.

A man of legendary independence, Harris later made one of the most extraordinary comebacks in British sporting history, winning the national sprint title in 1974, at the age of 54. He died in Macclesfield two summers ago, a few days after his final bike ride.

The statue, by James Butler RA, is a marvellously evocative piece of work, worth a visit in its own right. No doubt the BCF is hoping that the effigy will bestow good fortune upon a fine facility which is going to need all the luck it can get if it is to prosper in what, for all Harris's and Boardman's medals, remains an alien culture.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past