Repairs for 1948 Olympics velodrome

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The Independent Online

Repair work has begun to save the decaying Herne Hill Velodrome, the home of the 1948 Olympic cycling competition.

Key track repairs, expected to last six weeks, are the first major work on the site since a 15-year lease between the Dulwich Estate landowners and British Cycling (BC), as secure tenant, was signed this year.

The state of the still-used south-east London track, where three-times Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins began his cycling career, has fallen into ruin over the years.

It has become so bad that big events, including the traditional Good Friday Meeting, have had to be shifted to other venues.

Among the first of the "extensive structural repairs" being tackled is the strengthening and resurfacing of the track, according to BC's facilities officer Patrick Flanagan.

He said: "It currently has a concrete base with an epoxy resin finish. This finish has failed and cracked, allowing water to enter the structure and, in conjunction with frost, cause extensive damage, alongside some settling of the concrete base.

"The repairs will start with this concrete base, which will be mended with fibre-glass reinforcement at each joint. It was originally made in 10-metre lengths and where these join, unevenness is now a problem.

"The repairs will provide a strong and very smooth base upon which the new track surface can be laid."

A special fine granite stone covering called MasterTrack, which is smooth, hard and dense, will then be laid.

Mr Flanagan said: "It is also impervious to water, so damage from the elements will be eliminated.

"The new surface will be seven metres wide and laying it presents some challenges. Its width, combined with the camber, which changes in the bends, and the need for an extremely smooth finish, make it remarkably difficult to lay.

"Tarmac has developed a unique rig which runs on a track inside the cycling track. This allows them to lay the surface in three wide strips. So, all in all, it's a pretty special project with some unique problems and equally unique solutions."

Funding has come from BC's Whole Sport Plan and a bequest from London resident and Laune Cycling Club member Leonard Lyes, who died in July 2009. He asked that his bequest be used "in the pursuit of track cycling".

Getting the track repaired is "a huge step forward" for the Save the Velodrome campaign which was launched in late 2010, according to British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake.

He said: "It will provide riders of all ages with a fantastic surface on which to enjoy their cycling. Herne Hill is such an iconic venue and British Cycling is both delighted and proud of the role it is playing in helping getting it back to its former glory."

Hillary Peachey, chairwoman of the Save the Velodrome campaign, said: "These works are a turning point for the Herne Hill Velodrome.

"Barely a year ago the future of this incredible site was uncertain. The lack of a long-term lease combined with a series of harsh winters was threatening to overcome all the hard work which has been put into the track over the decades and there was a very real threat of closure."