Track cycling returns to Britain's Easter calender this weekend with the Condor Good Friday Racing track meeting.
Former track star turned organiser, Tony Gibb, previews the event he has helped to revive.
Why racing on Good Friday?
Followers of all things cycling will know that a track meeting has been held on Good Friday since 1903. Race meetings pre-date the Tour de France and were held for many years at London's first Olympic velodrome in Herne Hill.
However, Herne Hill Velodrome is an outdoor velodrome that — for many years — faced an uncertain future, and the track race meeting has faced cancellation due to poor weather. The event was revived last year by Tony Gibb, a former professional rider himself. He explains that the field is packed for the 2019 event: "Almost 160 riders have entered this years event, a massive step up from last year!" The increase in riders has meant an additional set of races has been added.
What makes the racing different and great for spectators?
Tony explained the racing is open or open field. "UCI rules say we can only have 28 riders on the track at any one time, that’s why in the morning we run qualification heats for the Monty Young Golden Wheel race. There are no paid riders and everyone has to qualify, even if you are an Olympian."
Tony explained that your performance in qualifying determines your race group for the day so there is no coasting through, and there will be race action right from the start.
If you were racing what event would you ride?
The Monty Young Golden Wheel. I was lucky enough to ride for the Condor Olympia Sport cycling team, and it would be an honour to ride in a race carrying Monty's name.
What to watch?
The programme begins at 1 o’clock with qualifying, and continues right through the day— there is always something on. Tony says to keep your eye out for the 'Reverse Win Out', a race all about tactics and skills.
"You have to either settle for one of the lower placing when there’s not that much interest, or gamble for the win and run the risk of coming up empty handed. Seeing the disappointment on a riders face when they cross the line second for the last sprint is quite amusing. Having said that, the elimination races at this meeting are winner takes all, so no prizes for the minor placings so that’s also pretty mercenary.
For anyone not fully clued up on the intricacies of track cycling, which to be fair is most of us, the free event programme has a breakdown of the rules, races and tactics."
Who are the riders to watch?
Tony explained that there are two types of rider endurance and sprinters. The endurance event culminates in the Monty Young Golden Wheel.
"Matt Rotherham will home for a big bunch sprint but the likes of Alistair Rutherford and Adam Duggleby won’t let him have an easy ride — that’s assuming they all qualify!"
In the women's event, the performance in the scratch, points and elimination race is totalled to provide an overall winner.
"Abi Dentus, she’s been riding in the B group at track league and regularly beating the men. I think she’s going to be very hard to beat. There is also Frida Knutsson the Swedish track champion, too."
"Alex Spratt has only been racing properly for a few years so it’s fair to say he may even be better than last year where he posted a sub-10 second qualifying time, which is world class!"
"The sprint field this year includes around 20 riders from the Great Britain Junior and Senior Academies, with plenty of future talent and riders eyeing up a place for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics."
How to watch?
Doors open at 12.30pm and tickets are available from the box office at the main entrance from £15 for adults. Advanced tickets are no longer available.
There is plenty going on besides the racing, including Condor demo bikes on the road circuit, Rollapaluza racing, scavenger hunt, and mini pump track.