Leicester - Velodrome

Saffron Lane : LE2 7NB Leicester - Velodrome : Image credit Brian Townsley Leicester - Velodrome : Image credit Brian Townsley
In 1965, Leicester City Council unveiled plans for a Sports Centre at Saffron Lane which would include a 333 ⅓ metre mastic asphalt track and a 440 yards running track to be built by En Tout Cas for £190,000. In 1969 Leicester City Council approved just under £100,000 for spectator accommodation at the sports centre and the track had a seating capacity of 3,100. The track had an abrupt transition from the bankings to the straights. The track surface was painted white, and when the floodlights were switched on the track would shine brightly.

In 1970 Saffron Lane hosted the World Championships from the 6th August. The event was not particularly successful and entries were disappointing. GB won 3 medals at the World Championships, Hugh Porter won gold in the professional pursuit, Ian Hallam silver in the individual pursuit and Beryl Burton won bronze for in the women's pursuit.

The people of Leicester seemed to be fairly apathetic about the World Championships; one article at the time was headed "Does Leicester care about this world cycle event?" Just five weeks before the event there were complaints that the track was bumpy. The classiclightweights.co.uk website quotes Henderson: "Comments about the championships have been many and varied. Unhappily, the public was often ill-treated or ignored...the events were (also) partly unsuccessful...in the standard of riding and in the quality of entry in certain events...Why was the stadium almost empty?...weather, prices, lack of information..."

Up until this time the National Track Championships were held at different tracks around the country, then Benny Foster introduced the idea of hold all the championships in a single week of competition. As Saffron Lane was the best track in the UK, the National Championships were held there many times in the 1970's.

In 1974 Reg Harris, at the age of 54, beat Trevor Bull to win the British Sprint Championship at Saffron Lane.

In February 1977 Leicester City Council agreed to resurface the track. The original asphalt surface was replaced with wood for the 1978 season and the track was then used for the 1982 World Championships. The resurfacing also involved slight changes to the geometry to reduce some of the alignment problems but the length remained unchanged at 333 metres. The 1982 UCI World Championships were successful but the UK did not manage to win a single medal. This video shows a spectacular tandem race in the 1982 worlds between UK pair Terry Tinsley and Paul Sydenham and the defending Czech champions.

On 22nd August 1992, Chris Boardman took eight seconds off the 5,000m world record at Saffron Lane with a time of 5 min 38 sec.

When Manchester velodrome opened in 1994, British track cycling switched its HQ to Manchester and took National Championship week with it, so competitor numbers at Saffron Lane dwindled.

With the stadium open to the elements, the track expanded and contracted, causing gaps to appear on the surface. The wooden track proved too costly to maintain, was abandoned in 1999, and controversially demolished in 2008. Leicester City Council sold the stadium land and housing was developed there at Hawkins Road and a new Sports Centre was built.

Leicester - Velodrome : Image credit Matt Donut Leicester - Velodrome : Image credit Ian Gilbert Leicester - Velodrome : Image credit Ian Gilbert Leicester - Velodrome : Image credit Bicyclepedia
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Photos : Brian Townsley, Matt Donut, Ian Gilbert, Bicyclepedia