Revolutionfrom a first-timer’s viewpoint
There’s a cliché about velodromes that, if you’re like me and have never been to one before, you’ll have heard a time or two on telly – it’s that the camera cannot show just how steep those banks are. You hear these things and you nod to yourself, and you file them away in the back of your mind – and if like me, you finally get to go somewhere like Manchester’s magnificent National Velodrome, well… If my experience is anything to go by, your jaw will drop open and you are going to spend fifteen minutes running around laughing inside your skull and going “that’s incredible!” No, the camera really does not do it justice. It’s like staring up a 75 degree slope from the middle. And from the outside, it’s like looking down a sheer cliff face – you’ll be impressed, trust me on this one.
One thing that you DON’T really hear is how much the camera slows things down, too. When I got there in the afternoon for Revolution 39, there were riders casually spinning around before the National Madison Championships, in groups and individually, fresh-faced youngsters and crusty old seasoned pros alike. Their pace was pretty impressive, even just as they warmed up, but my attention was seriously grabbed a few minutes later – without me really noticing, the composition of the riders changed subtly. The traffic slowly thinned out, and instead of groups going round at the bottom, chatting and practicing the odd changeover, all of a sudden it turned into stocky fellers, circulating slowly and silently on their own, high up on the banking. I happened to be sat facing the track when their purpose became clear – with no warning, a dark blue streak arrowed across my line of vision almost too fast for my poor unprepared brain to track. There was no sound in advance, and you could almost feel the whump of the air being forced apart by the speeding rider – the sprint guys, out for a final tune up before the heats that afternoon. I don’t want to exaggerate – they weren’t faster than a speeding train, or so fast they were blurred, but if you’ve never had a sprinter unexpectedly go past you at speed close up before, trust me on this too: it will make you sit up sharply and utter an involuntary expletive.
A couple of other things surprised me early on – the first was how small the arena as a whole is. With a capacity of around 3500, the National Velodrome can only seat about 6% as many people as the City Of Manchester Stadium over the road. The second was that it wasn’t sold out for the National Madison Championships. It wasn’t empty by any stretch of the imagination, but I would estimate it was only between half and two thirds full, which is an absolute crying shame not only because the racing itself was superb from start to finish, but also because tickets were just six quid – for £6, those with the foresight to be present got to see the likes of Fostermann, Hindes, D’Almera and Pervis in action during the early sprint rounds, they also got both Boys and Girls rounds of the DHL Future Stars Madison, and the race for the first National jersey of the year. Six quid – they should have been queueing ten deep at the doors!
The Madison itself was an incredible race, going right to the wire after a smidge under an hour’s racing, and there was a wait of an hour or two between that and Revolution itself – and when that started, you couldn’t have got a seat for love nor money. The quality of the competition was absolutely top draw – even when there was a “favourite” for an event, it was by no means certain that they would win, and frequently they did not. Spurred on by the world-class racing, the crowd were vocal and enthusiastic all night long which really added to the atmosphere, and one aspect of that that I was really pleased about was that it wasn’t just people cheering for the home riders –when one of the less-fancied riders, or a rider racing for France or the Rest Of The World won, even if it was a British rider they beat, even one of the stars, the crowd stood and cheered the performance. Pete Kennaugh’s astonishing ride in the Points race drew plenty of praise, of course, and was a hugely popular win – but the crowd cheered just as loudly when Robert Bengsch and Marcel Kalz smashed the kilo Madison TT field apart like a well-aimed bowling ball scattering the pins to all corners. I really liked that lack of jingoism.
Was there a downside? Not that I can think of – only that tickets are hard to come by, but the series can’t be faulted for being a successful draw. The only thing that I did come away thinking was, I wish I could have a go – but then, having said that, a handful of brave and hardy souls took to the boards for a taster session between the afternoon and evening events when the velodrome (thankfully for them!) was free of spectators. And watching them gamely spin round, another thought occurred – the gap in talent and ability between the national pro and the keen amateur man in the street is a gulf so vast as to be virtually insurmountable. They make it look easy, the pros, they really do – that’s another thing the camera doesn’t show you. Would I go again? I can’t wait for the next one…
Revolution is a brilliant evening, it’s truly action packed you don’t get a moment to blink. The Manchester Velodrome is an amazing venue and now contains a BMX Park. The seating is comfortable, the Velodrome staff are the friendliest you’ll come across at a sports venue, even the guys stood out in the freezing cold directing you into your parking space have a smile and a joke for you. The car park is well organised but if you are attending an event you do need to check the Manchester City Football fixtures beforehand as the velodrome traffic can get caught up in the Football queues as the stadiums are opposite each other. The Velodrome is very well signposted from all sides of Manchester.
Food at the Revolution is ok, there are a couple of nice kiosks that sell good coffee and pancakes, but most of the food is burgers and hotdogs, the queue’s tend to be huge, if you’re travelling a long way I would suggest eating before or taking something with you, there is a large supermarket next to the venue if you get stuck. Ticket prices are excellent, sporting events tend to overcharge but the Revolution and most other cycling events held at the National Track Cycling Centre are peanuts in comparison, it only cost £6 to attend the National Madison Championships in the afternoon! Revolution will set you back between £10 and £20 for a single standard ticket but discounts are available for family tickets, carers and pensioners, season tickets are the best buy, you get a British Cycling early bird ticket buying option if you’re a member. If you want to get up close and personal with the riders and teams then the VIP tickets or Track Centre Lounge tickets are for you.
There are some great stands from bookstalls to cycling brands and some things for you to have a go at including Watt Bikes and Rollapaluza, it would be good to see some more though.
We give the Revolution Series our Star Buy rating!
The next and final round of the 2012 series will be held at The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd February 2013
For more information on the series visit: www.cyclingrevolution.com
Standard tickets are sold out for Revolution Series Round 4 but Track Centre Lounge and VIP tickets are still available – buy Track Centre Lounge tickets here.
Watch Revolution Series Round 4 highlights on Thursday 7th February at 8pm on ITV4 and catch up in ITV Player