Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Velodrome called for to build on Giro

Leading by example: Newtownards' Martyn Irvine en route to clinching silver in the World Championship Scratch final in February

One of the most prominent officials in Ulster cycling has made a renewed call for politicians in Northern Ireland to build an indoor Velodrome and invest in the feelgood factor surrounding the sport here following the success of the Giro d'Italia.

The Giro, which finished in Italy on Sunday with Colombian Nairo Quintana victorious, began in Northern Ireland last month and attracted huge crowds in its first three days of competition.

It seemed that the country had turned pink in honour of the prestigious cycling race, second only to the Tour de France, coming to Belfast, the Causeway Coast, Armagh and beyond.

But what now for cycling in Northern Ireland, the only nation inside the United Kingdom without a Velodrome?

As part of the Northern Ireland legacy from the London 2012 Olympics, an indoor cycling arena was one of several sporting ventures planned, but all were shelved due to budget issues.

Anthony Mitchell, previously Race Director of the Tour of the North and a Cycling Ulster coach at Orangefield, has been a long time campaigner for a Velodrome in Northern Ireland and is hoping the idea will be resurrected again.

He says: "I am continuing to campaign for improved cycling facilities in Northern Ireland including the potential for an indoor Velodrome.

"I have met politicians at Stormont and they visited Orangefield last year to see first-hand the facilities we work with.

"I recently accompanied MLAs to the Newport Velodrome in Wales which I reckon is a model which could easily fit locally, as the London, Manchester and Glasgow and soon to open Derby tracks are all large multi-use venues; however, Newport is a compact facility costing less than £10m in 2003.

"No matter what size the building, all Track 'infields' can be utilised for numerous other indoor sports and fitness activities. Netball, Badminton, Fencing, Basketball, Table Tennis and Judo are just a few. Investment in a Velodrome, whilst primarily a cycling facility, would provide numerous opportunities for other complimentary activities for able bodied and disabled alike.

"Response from Stormont has been positive, and I hope we can continue this wave of Giro fever to keep the positivity going. MLAs have been supportive, and I continue to liaise with them and Government departments to keep a Velodrome a possibility."

Mitchell is not just intent on building on the incredible interest in the Giro but also the global success of World Track Cycling champion Martyn Irvine from Newtownards.

"Cycling was devastated by the cancellation of the London Olympic legacy dream, however since then the sport has boomed, with Cycling Ireland almost doubling its membership to over 20,000, almost 6,000 of whom are from Ulster.

"I have no doubt there are future Martyn Irvines out there, but as with everything of this nature it all comes down to money as to whether the dream can become a reality second time around."

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