SPORT UNDER THREAT
TWO of the city’s senior cycling figures have rejected calls for the CBD velodrome site to be sold off, claiming the track’s removal would punish future generations of cyclists.
It comes as council revealed last week it had re-entered talks with Tamworth Cycle Club about moving the facility out of town in a bid to free up an estimated $2 million worth of Peel St commercial land.
The track, built on prime council land two decades ago and joint-funded by the cycle club and council, has earned a reputation as a sporting “white elephant” in recent years.
Cycle club vice-president Kevin Bartlett told The Leader last week the club would be “better served with a flatter track that wasn’t in such a high-profile location”.
But former professional cyclist Alan Spokes – a nationally accredited coach whose son Sam Spokes is competing in the World Cycling Championships in Italy – said the velodrome remained a critical training tool for the region’s most talented cyclists.
“The town itself doesn’t realise how utilised the track actually is and the club should be doing more to lift its game and get state-level races here,” Mr Spokes said.
“It’s (the track) used four or five times a week and it’s the only velodrome within five hours of here. We have cyclists come from across the region to train on it.
“We’ve also had so many state and national champions over the years that wouldn’t have been able to reach that level without training on the track.
“You can do things on a velodrome training that you can’t legally do on the road.”
Mr Spokes, a former real estate agent, said the land’s commercial value would never be realised because it was built on a flood plain.
The future of the velodrome has long been the subject of community debate, only intensified by a recent council policy to look at selling a number of under-utilised public spaces for private investment.
John Saunders, whose daughters Tori, Jessie and Ollie are all top junior cyclists, says his family would “chain ourselves to a fence” to ensure the velodrome is not lost to the city.
“When Jessie heard the site could be sold off she cried – that’s how deep a cut it is,” Mr Saunders said.
“Council building a flat track in its place is certainly better than no track, but it won’t replace the velodrome.
“If we lose it, the future of the sport locally will be in jeopardy.”