Friday, September 2, 2011

New Zealand as a model ; An argument for indoor velodromes in Quebec

Une traduction française sera disponible cette semaine ... Merci de votre patience et votre compréhension ...

Pure Black racing NZ Junior Squad

Some people say that Quebec is ‘the Mecca of bike racing in North America and given the 400 plus FQSC events each year including prestigious UCI events (WorldTour GP Quebec City, GP Montreal, Mountain Bike World Championships on Mont Ste Anne, Tour d’Abitibi, World Cup Paralympics, etc), there is considerable justification to this claim.

Quebec should be proud of how well it does in a mainly European sport. But is there room for improvement?

James Oram
This summer saw some cyclists from a non-European country--New Zealand--come into la belle Province to compete against Quebec’s and Canada’s best. Two New Zealand junior riders James Oram and Dion Smith finished first and second at the Tour of Abitibi while the top Canadian there, Emile Jean , only finished seventh. Smith—a junior—also distinguished himself at the Mardis Cyclistes in Lachine on July 11, finishing second only to David Veilleux (Europcar). Then on Aug 14 New Zealander Brett Tivers (Garneau) took the 243km Montreal-Quebec City Classic. And in the USA this year, four senior New Zealand riders finished in the top 50 at the Tour of Utah, an honour only one Canadian (Rob Britton) shared.

Dion Smith
Brett Tivers

To put this into perspective, New Zealand, with 4.3 million inhabitants, has about half of the population of Quebec with 8 million and is much smaller than Canada with 33 million. It is also very distant from North America and few New Zealand road cyclists make it to Quebec. But why do those few do so well?

A quick Internet search reveals that New Zealand has two state-of-the art indoor velodromes while Quebec has none. Could this have something to do with it? Given our larger population and ruder winters here, it would make more sense if Quebec had two and New Zealand had none!

Indoor velodromes allow cyclists to practice their sport through the winter months. They also allow coaches to closely watch their cyclists over extended distances, helping the cyclists fine tune their technique.

One Quebec coach, Eric Van den Eynde, has told me that track racing helps cyclists avoid accidents when they ride road bikes. A velodrome, whether indoor or outdoor, is a safe playground removed from cars where cyclists can experiment and learn their limits. The fact that track bikes have no brakes means that cyclists riding them have to learn to anticipate problems. When those same cyclists ride road bikes, they will be experienced at anticipating problems and also have brakes to rely on.

Currently, Canada has only two small indoor velodromes located in BurnabyBC and in LondonON. Riders from across Canada commonly travel to places like Los Angeles to practice on the state-of-the-art indoor velodrome there.

Hamish Schreurs and James Oram
Ironically, Montreal used to have a world class indoor velodrome before that was turned into The Biodome. Canada is spending a lot of money on sports with programs such as “own the podium/à nous le podium” but efforts to promote cycling in this country are crippled unless we have good velodromes here.

Montreal’s Olympic Velodrome was apparently under-utilised before it was turned into a home for penguins. But was that simply a matter of governments and private industry not supporting the sport? If they build it, will cyclists come?

Many people think that Montreal has always been a hockey town with no room for another winter sport. But before the Second World War, track racing rivalled hockey as the most popular spectator sport in Montreal. Former Montreal Canadiens player Henri Richard once recounted to me going to watch Six Day races with his brother, Maurice. Can’t we recreate what is still within living memory?

New Zealand could be a model for Quebec to follow in terms of building indoor cycling facilities in order to develop future cycling talent.

John Symon


You are confusing correlation with causality. New Zealand has for quite some time had a health track cycling scene with a track record of excellence. They have 1 indoor facility (Palmerston is in the processing of finalizing a bid for tender) but most importantly they have 12 outdoor tracks in the Country. Canada and Quebec would be better served having 5 cheap tracks to expose and develop riders than one super expensive capital intensive track. Finding the money to put silca in the paint a Bromont would be a good start.

Yes, I should have written that tiny New Zealand will probably SOON have two, state-of-the-art, indoor velodromes. The Palmerston project is just in the pipeline at present. But we both agree that New Zealand has many more velodromes than Canada.

This country has two indoor velodromes (in Burnaby BC and in London, Ontario) but neither can be considered state-of-the-art. Quebec, of course, only has one outdoor velodrome (in Bromont).

Finding the money will likely be difficult whether we try to build an indoor velodrome or more outdoor ones. Part of the problem is the scant media attention that cycling receives, this making it hard to attract fans or find sponsors. It's the same old damn catch-22!


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.