Saturday, August 10, 2013

Velodromes and Museums in France

I guess since my kid-days, I've always had a passion for cars and bikes - push bikes that is!

Strangely enough on our travels to Europe, well France and Italy really, I've always searched out Motor Museums and Velodromes.
There's a site that documents much of the velodromes world wide and I've marked them on my Google Earth. Many of these have been contributed by Barry Langley. How did you manage this Barry???
Check out "World Velodromes on - its an old site but full of info still.

Anyway back to the story - before leaving on a trip, I'd just quietly note the velodromes in the areas we would be travelling without telling Sue (the Wife). As we would be travelling through some regional town in France, I'd say - I need to drive down this road, I have a feeling that there might just be a velodrome nearby.

To this day, Sue believes I can sniff out a velodrome anywhere in the world!!!!!

The photos below are from the Chatellerault Car and Bike Museum south of Chinon in the Loire.
Although predominantly cars and motor bikes, there some fine examples of pushies as well.

Chatellerault Car and Bike Museum

These are from another museum in the east Loire - Valency.

In LYON somewhere in a back laneway
Seen in Lyon opposite the restaurant where we had lunch.

These books sparked off my Velodrome search - it mentiond the one in Senlis, north of Paris. It was our first stop - I told Sue that it had a very historic cathedral, and it did but it also had the Senlis velodrome that was mentioned in Greg Moody's first book, Two Wheels.

The Velodrome in Dijon. It was in a very sad state when I was there in 2009.
I heard that it was to be demolished. When there I discovered a bunch ride that started just outside the walls of the Velodrome. There were quite a few of these velodromes in France in a sad state.
Velodromes are all over France but many over the years have fallen into disrepair. Like track racing all over the world it seems to be a poor cousin to road racing. Yet back in the days of Merckx, the roadies would keep supple by riding the winter sixes. Here's some of the velodromes that I've encountered on our trips to France.
Like this one in Senlis, north of Paris. I'd read the cycling novels by Greg Moody about an American cyclist that was in this team for the Tour de France. A bit of a Sam Spade murder thriller. More about that another day.

This velodrome is in Auxerre and looked to be abandoned as well.
One track that is in constant use these days is in Paris and named after Jacques Anquetil.
On our various trips, I've had the opportunity to ride the velodrome with my friend Michel Briat.
Michel came to Australia for the World Masters Track Championships in Sydney and eventually won his world stripes at Manchester recently.
The velodrome at Vincennes Paris is 500 metres and was the site of the finish of the Tour de France when Eddy Merckx won all of his five victories.
Merckx riding a victory lap with Poulidor and Lopez-Carril after his 5th TdF win at Vincennce Velodrome.
It was the site of the TdF finish from 1968 to 1974.
Vincennes Velodrome named after Jacques Anquetil was built in 1894 and used for the summer Olympic in Paris for the 1900 and 1924 Games. After our last visit to Paris in 2012, it has be fully rebuilt rather than resurfaced to ensure that this historic venue is used for many more years to come.

Friday, August 2, 2013


I wondered what I'd write about this weekend for "the Cycling Scrapbook" so I pulled out the old tattered scrapbook and found a page I tore from an old Olympic Velodrome program many years ago.

Mum and Dad took me to the Olympic Velodrome before I even thought about bike racing. I think I spent more time playing under the grandstand than watching the racing. While I write this, I can almost hear the rattling of the weather worn timber boards. Little did I realise that a few years later I would race this same track where I saw many of the imports from Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Britain.

The Promoter of the day was Bill Long and judging by the way my Dad and he got along, they probably knew each other well. Bill came up with the idea of giving us kids an opportunity to "ride the boards" on the Saturday night program. But first we had to prove ourselves by attending a few training days under his watchful eye. Anyway, I was chosen amongst another twenty four under 16 year olds.

Come the night of our Board Track debut, we were on the track during the warm-up session on our restricted 81" gear ratio. No roll-outs then - in fact we would fit large bag tyres to increase the gear.
So here we are warming up and there are the greats of the era. Sid Patterson, Barry Waddell, John Perry, John Green, Joe Ciavola, Bill Lawrie, Leandro Faggin and Ferdinand Terruzzi from Italy, Oscar Plattner from Switzerland and Piet Van Der Touw who may have been from Holland.

It was a great period of track racing at the Board Track.

The Melbourne Olympic Velodrome initially (1956) was a 333m track with a concrete skin over the boards. Later it was shortened to 250m with the boards laid in an opposing direction so that as the riders raced around the track, the boards would rattled with a roar that created a great atmosphere.

Do you know any of these young fellas???

As I look down through the names, I see many of my competitors have kept the pedals turning now that we are well and truly in our sixth decade. Having gone through those early years together, there's a sort of special fraternity amongst us. Some of us just made up the field and a few reached the pinnacle in the sport but whenever we meet, there's always time for a chin-wag about those early days.

One such rider was John Nicholson - he won silver at the 1972 Munich Olympics after gaining some experience at Mexico in 1968. I remember him putting me into fourth place in the 1964 under 16 State Sprint Title at Carnegie Velodrome. On that day he won bronze but that didn't keep him from becoming one of out Nation's top World acclaimed sprinters.
John went on to win two World Pro Sprint Titles in 1975 and 1976.

Alan Goodrope was another on that program who went on to some success as a Roadie and represented Australia at the 1976 Montreal Games.

I often give a wave to Chris (Snake) Salisbury on Beach Road these days and often catch up at the most inopportune times with Tony Branchflower. I often hear, "Simsey, not you again"......from behind.
Tony had his fair share of racing in Europe and was a hard man on the road. John Hunt (a World Masters 500 metre TT Champion in 2009) from Blackburn is also amongst those Melbourne Midgets and later became a very tough competitor in my Masters age group during 2007 to 2010 and still turns the pedals as well.

Nico had some tough competition in his day from the French. The two top sprinters and Kilo riders were Morelon and Trentin. These two were also a handy Tandem team.

Nico was sponsored by Shimano and I suspect that he was ahead of his time with clipless pedals.
John's shoes were actually attached to the pedals permanently. He'd walk to the bike in his socks, hop on the bike, slide into his shoes and then lace-up. He should get royalties from all of today's pedal makers.
One thing that does stand out though is that some clubs have fallen by the wayside. Alphington, Noble Park, Mordialloc and Fitzroy no longer exist. I remember my first under 16 Victorian Scratch Race Championship, (3rd place) at the now defunct Mordialloc track on Nepean Highway. Geoff Cunningham and David Kelso with the Whiting brothers were members and I know David still enjoys the bike.
Although Noble Park club is defunct, the track still remains.

Many of us on that page of entrants above started racing around 1963, that's 50 years ago. I wonder where the others are - maybe you can tell me.

Good Times - Good Memories in a Great Sport