Nestled in the heart of South London, the Herne Hill Velodrome has played a pivotal role in British cycling history for well over a century. As one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world, it has hosted countless professional cyclists and cultivated a lasting impact on the sport. In this article, we will delve into the rich history of the velodrome, its importance to the sport, and the pro cyclists who have graced its tracks.
A Storied Past: The Birth and Evolution of Herne Hill Velodrome
The Herne Hill Velodrome was constructed in 1891, making it one of the world’s oldest cycling tracks still in use today. Built on a 15-acre site, the velodrome was initially designed to accommodate the growing popularity of track cycling in the late 19th century. It quickly became a focal point for the sport, hosting national and international events, including the 1903 International Cycling Championship.
The velodrome’s most significant moment came in 1948 when it served as the primary venue for the track cycling events during the London Olympic Games. This further solidified its importance in the world of cycling and helped to raise the profile of British track cycling on the international stage.
In the following decades, the velodrome faced various challenges, including maintenance issues and threats of closure. However, thanks to concerted efforts by the local community, the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust was established in 2011 to secure its future. Since then, it has undergone extensive renovations, ensuring that it remains a vital hub for cycling enthusiasts and professionals alike.
The Importance of Herne Hill Velodrome
The Herne Hill Velodrome has been more than just a venue for professional cyclists; it has acted as a breeding ground for talent and a gateway to the sport for countless individuals. The velodrome has hosted numerous national championships and international events, showcasing some of the world’s best cyclists and inspiring future generations of athletes.
Moreover, the velodrome has played a crucial role in promoting inclusivity and diversity in the sport. By offering programs for all ages and abilities, it has fostered a welcoming environment where everyone can experience the thrill of track cycling.
Pro Cyclists Who Have Ridden at Herne Hill Velodrome
Over the years, numerous professional cyclists have ridden at Herne Hill Velodrome, some of whom have gone on to achieve international acclaim. A few notable figures include:
- Sir Bradley Wiggins: The first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, Wiggins began his career at Herne Hill Velodrome. He credits the velodrome for nurturing his passion for the sport and providing him with a solid foundation in track cycling.
- Laura Kenny (née Trott): As a four-time Olympic gold medalist, Kenny has had a remarkable career in track cycling. She too honed her skills at Herne Hill Velodrome, where she first discovered her love for the sport.
- Fred Wright: A more recent example on this list is the young Londoner on the Bahrain Victorious team. Yet to take a pro win, Wright has been knocking on the door and repeatedly coming close with 2nds and 3rds in grand tours like the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. So it only feels like a matter of time. Top-10 results in the last 2 years at the Tour of Flanders also offer opportunities in the future.
- Pfeiffer Georgi: The Brit got some of her first tastes of riding on Herne Hill velodrome having grown up right next to the velodrome. The family moved to Gloucestershire after only a few years but the track certainly had an impact on getting the career started of the former national champion.
- Tom Simpson: The late Tom Simpson, one of Britain’s most renowned cyclists, also raced at Herne Hill Velodrome. Whilst not his local by any stretch, Simpson won national titles at Herne Hill in the 50s and 60s. Simpson was the first Briton to wear the coveted yellow jersey in the Tour de France and held it for a total of four days during his career.
Herne Hill Velodrome is a beacon of British cycling history and a testament to the importance of grassroots sporting venues. By providing a platform for professional cyclists and fostering a love for the sport among amateurs, the velodrome has made a lasting impact on the world of cycling. As it continues to thrive, the legacy of Herne Hill Velodrome will be carried on by the generations of cyclists who have been inspired within
Main photo credit: Adam Scott