Track Is Back – Or Is It?

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I dropped by the Track World Cup training sessions at Hisense Arena yesterday to take a few snaps (tip: carry a big camera with you and they’ll let you in anywhere). I always enjoy watching the training sessions because it allows you see some of the worlds best athletes messing around and making their final preparations.

I won’t be here to see the Friday and Saturday sessions because I’ll be in my own little hurtbox of my own climbing up the mountains of Bright, but I’ll definitely be at Hisense Arena tonight taking in the atmosphere and action of the Madison and Team Sprint events.

What surprises me is that many people I speak with won’t be making the trip to the velodrome to see the World Cup this weekend. To be honest, until yesterday I didn’t even realize that there were some good competitions on tonight and I assumed everything would climax on Saturday night. Not so. Tonight, Friday and Saturday evening have a great selection of race finals.

From what the old timers tell me, track racing used to be an absolutely massive sport. Every Saturday night the whole community would go down to the local velodrome and watch the local races:

Photo from Wangaratta Cycling Club (taken just after WWII).

I don’t know if these tales of grandeur and the glory days are just being embellished if they’re indeed true. Judging by many of the photos I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard I tend to believe that the sport of track cycling has seen better days.

In theory, track racing is the perfect spectator event. Tickets are relatively cheap, you get to sit in one spot in an air conditioned velodrome, have copious amounts of beer and deep fried food, watch a plethora of short and exciting races, then go home and be in bed in 30 minutes.

However, these days track cycling just doesn’t seem to mean that much to people. The Revolution series did some exciting things to rekindle track racing but that seems to have fizzled away. The last Revolution event had a low attendance and most of the people there were given free tickets. We have the Track World Cup here in Melbourne now but many people seem disinterested.

Why is it that many people have this blasé feeling toward track cycling these days? Is it because there are so many track disciplines that only the enthusiast can understand what’s going on? Do we need more superstars and personalities in the sport? Is it because there’s no meaningful prize up for grabs? Is this just another checkbox on our way to the Olympics? (Matt Keenan touched on this topic on his blog a couple days ago).

I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on what is lacking in track racing and how it could be fixed. What I’d really be keen to hear are your feedback (especially from the old timers) on what made track so exciting in the past and what is needed to revive our interest in the sport.

***To encourage your input I’ll be randomly giving away a few great prizes. I have two (2) sets of tickets for tonight’s Track World Cup and two (2) sets for tomorrow night to give away (make sure you indicate if you want this prize in your comment, otherwise I don’t know if you can make it or not). I also have six Jersey Bin pouches to give away. Anyone who leaves a story about the good ol’ days of track or some feedback on this topic is eligible for the prizes. If you comment, just make sure you leave your email address in your username so that I can contact you (your email address will be kept confidential and not used for any devious purposes). I’ve also included a simple poll at the bottom for those of you who have no comment.

I’ll announce tonight’s ticket winners on twitter at 3pm (AEST) and tomorrow night’s winners at 9pm tonight. Winners will be contacted directly by email.

Recommended Events To Watch

The organisers have done a great job at making sure each evening has a few showcase events. I’m not quite sure which night I’d pick if I had the choice of all three. Below is my personal rundown of the highlights for each evening. There’s many more competitions other than what I’ve shown and the full schedule of events can be found here.

If you’re unfamiliar with track events I’ve posted an overview of all of the different disciplines in track racing here.

Tonight 7pm – 10pm

Women Team Pursuit Finals (Go Anna, Sarah, Josie and Kate!)

Women Team Sprint Finals (Go Anna!)

Men 40km Madison Finals (confusing as hell but exciting to watch the chaos! See world champions Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer teamed up)

Men Omnium Round 3 – Elimination Race (Leigh Howard will be contesting the Omnium. This elimination race will be exciting to watch)

Men Team Sprint Finals (Watch for Shane Perkins, Daniel Ellis and Jason Niblett (AUS) and Chris Hoy, Matt Crampton and Jason Queally (GBR))

Friday 7pm – 10pm

Women Sprint Finals (3rd & 4th, 1st & 2nd) Heat 1 (Go Anna!)

Men Omnium Final Round – 1km Time Trial

Women Sprint Finals (3rd & 4th, 1st & 2nd) Heat 2 (Watch for Anna Meares Victoria Pendleton)

Men Keirin Final (Chris Hoy and Shane Perkins are the guys to watch)

Women Sprint Finals (3rd & 4th, 1st & 2nd) Heat 3 (if required) (Go Anna!)

Saturday 7pm – 10:50pm

Women 500m Time Trial Final (Go Anna!)

Men Team Pursuit Finals (3rd & 4th, 1st & 2nd) (Watch for young guns Leigh Howard, Jack Bobridge, Cameron Meyer and Michael Hepburn)

Men Sprint Finals (3rd & 4th, 1st & 2nd) Heat 1

Women Omnium Final Round – 500m Time Trial

Men Sprint Finals (3rd & 4th, 1st & 2nd) Heat 2 (Watch for Perkins, Hoy and Josiah Ng (Malaysia))

Women Keirin Final (Go Anna!)

Men Sprint Finals (3rd & 4th, 1st & 2nd) Heat 3 (if required)

Photo courtesy of fyxomatosis


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