There was a time when the Westshore Velodrome’s future was in jeopardy, as municipal officials struggled to determine who would pay for its upkeep and whether it was the best use of valuable land.
While the track cycling community fretted over the disposition of the track, built for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, an influx of capital came to facility owner West Shore Parks and Recreation. It came in the form of the Westshore Rugby Football Club, which announced in 2014 it would move to Colwood from the former Velox club, and use a refurbished velodrome infield as its training facility.
The non-profit Greater Victoria Velodrome Association benefited from that move, as WSPR was given more certainty about revenues and decided to keep the facility. Those days seem like another era, as the GVVA is thriving today with about 130 members and a dozen-member board. Not only do they run the facility, they do a good job promoting recreational and competitive cycling in the Capital Region.
The association hosted an open house recently to introduce newcomers to the facility and the sport of track cycling. The specialized bikes were provided, as well as some instruction and as much time on the track as riders wished, before the rain began.
“That was really the goal of the board, was to encourage people to come out and see what we’re doing, see what the facility is and give it a go,” said GVVA president Tony Winter.
The riders on the day ranged in age from youth right up to middle aged, none of whom appeared to have been on one of these specialized bikes before. Track bikes may look similar to road versions, but the former have no brakes, one gear and a fixed crank that makes the pedals and back wheels move in tandem.
“People wonder about the safety of riding a bike without brakes, but when everyone’s riding a bike without brakes, you don’t have those sudden decelarations,” Winter said. “Once you get the hang of it, it really is quite safe.”
Sherry Barnes, GVVA treasurer and scheduling director, noted that the track users range widely.
“We have a number of folks that come to the track for strictly exercise,” she said. “We’re hoping to spark more interest from the riders. It’s a nice safe area to learn how to ride a bike in, and also a nice safe area for the experienced riders to learn some different skill sets.”
All ages of riders can join the learn to race programs and later take advantage of on-track coached sessions to learn about everything from how to ride safely to racing strategies, she said.
Although the 333-metre track no longer meets World Cup standards – most pro races are on 250-metre indoor tracks where weather isn’t a factor – Winter said the velodrome is a great multipurpose facility.
“I’ve had the fortune to ride on a number of tracks throughout the world and this is really a very, very good track,” he said. “It’s a great track for beginners to learn on and it’s also great for racing on. It’s wide and the banks are not so steep that it’s intimidating for new riders. It’s one of my favourite tracks.”
Some outsiders were on hand making the day go smoothly. Shawn McKean, the owner of Broad Street Cycles, spoke to the importance to the cycling community of the velodrome.
“It’s good to keep these facilities alive,” she said, as she helped a rider get sized up on a bikes. “A lot of champions have come from these grounds.”
For more information about the velodrome and the various programs available, visit gvva.bc.ca.