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Tour de France legend latest to back West Midlands velodrome hopes

By Harriet Evans | Birmingham | Commonwealth Games | Published:

A three-time Tour de France winner and a young Olympic hopeful are among thousands backing a proposal to build a training velodrome in the West Midlands.

Wolverhampton Wheelers Cycling Club members, on the reopened velodrome, at Aldersley Leisure Village, Wolverhampton.

Prominent voices behind the campaign believe bringing a training centre to the Black Country would make the sport more accessible for young cyclists - who currently have to travel to Derby or Manchester where the nearest velodromes are located.

It was launched by David Viner, a keen cyclist and trustee of Halesowen Cycling Club, and Charlie Dickens from Stourbridge, who wanted an indoor multi-sport training centre to be built as a legacy of the Commonwealth Games.

David believes it is a "golden opportunity" that is being missed. He said: "All we are saying for cycling is to be treated with the same respect with which athletics is being treated, or swimming or other sports."

The petition has been signed by more than 7,000 people and was handed to Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, and Birmingham City Council leader, Ian Ward, in April.

Cycling legend, Greg Le Mond, with campaigner David Viner

Now Greg LeMond, a three time Tour de France winner and twice World Road Race Champion, has shown support for David's petition, he said: "It was great to hear the passion for cycling, in particular the importance of track riding and racing.

"Few people know that I also raced on the track when I started racing. It serves as best foundation for racing no matter what discipline."

Also backing the idea is Wolverhampton cycling legend, Hugh Porter, and Olympic gold medallist, Chris Boardman.

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Campaigners have questioned why the plans for the 2022 Games do not include a purpose-built velodrome - after it was revealed that the budget was £28 million more than anticipated.

Cycling events will instead be held at the London Olympic velodrome instead - 130 miles away. But calls have been made demanding a new velodrome is still created in the region to be used by clubs, young budding cyclists and to boost participation in the sport.

One young cyclist, Kinga Ingram, aged 16 from Kingswinford, who is in the Junior Olympic Development Academy for Team GB, is also hoping the plans will be approved.

Former World Cycling Champion Hugh Porter, Halesowen Cycling Club Chairman David Viner, and campaigner Charlie Dickens hand over a 6,000-strong petition to Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward in support of a new velodrome

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She said: "It became clear early on I needed to allocate time at an indoor Velodrome and this is where the time, travel and expense has occurred.

"The only Velodrome near to me is Halesowen, which is outside and cannot be used when its wet due to safety as track bikes have no brakes.

"Derby is the nearest but unfortunately due to the grid lock on the local motorways it takes two to two and a half hours to get to Derby for the Monday or Thursday youth training and league sessions. By the time we return home it is past midnight, fortunately, school allows me to be late the next day.

"I have had injuries, the root cause according to my sports therapist was due to the travel after hard training. Now my dad has even invested in a motor home so we can camp overnight so I can attend other sessions."

James Morris, MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, has also backed the plans as he believes building a velodrome will be an important part of the legacy of the 2022 games.

He added: "The West Midlands has a strong track record in track cycling and cycling for health and fitness is growing in popularity.

"I have been supporting local campaigners who have been putting the case for a velodrome by lobbying the Commonwealth games organising committee and government ministers.

"The idea is now firmly on the agenda and I will continue to work with local campaigners to put the case."

Harriet Evans

By Harriet Evans
Community Reporter - @HarrietEvans_ES

Community Reporter at the Express & Star, covering the issues affecting young people across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Contact me at harriet.evans@expressandstar.co.uk

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