I wandered down to the Meadowbank Velodrome the other Saturday, I thought it was for the ‘closing gala’ or somesuch, but apparently the Track League can go on for another year?
It was a disappointment to all those looking for coffee tables.
The 1970 Commonwealth Games were just slightly before my time to spectate but I did read about them at the time; however I did witness the 1986 Games events and did a few laps of me own in anger round those boards.
It got me thinking about my personal memories of Meadowbank, and great riders who graced the boards; my A to Z of Meadowbank Velodrome memories follows – with cracking off-beat images courtesy of a man who’s done more than a few laps of the old piste, Dave Martin.
Andy Henderson – was my club mate in the Kennoway Road Club way back in the 70’s, Andy was a rapid sprinter and took medals in the Scottish Sprint and Pursuit Championships.
Blowout – I had a belter of a one on the last banking, sliding the length of the home straight, backwards, heid first – there are still scars on me knees and elbows to verify this anecdote.
Clark – not too many remember that the young Danny Clark scored his first big international success here with silver in the 4,000 metres individual pursuit behind supreme stylist, Ian Hallam in 1970.
The Australian would go on to win an Olympic kilometre silver medal in Munich, world titles in the points and motor paced and 73 Six Days.
Davies – there was Big Chic and Wee Chic, father and son; Davies senior would run us over to the Track League in his faithful VW Beetle back in my Kirkcaldy & District CC days.
Chic junior was pretty rapid around Meadowbank and was difficult to catch in the handicaps – but would die tragically young in a motorcycle accident.
Edinburgh Velodrome – will there ever be another one once the firewood and coffee table brigade have their way? This time it has to have lid though…
Fist Fights – As a novice junior trackman I was unprepared for Stewart Sutherland (Musselburgh RCC) and Alan Miller (Dunedin CC) to be exchanging punches at 30 mph, just above me in the back straight.
Some nights the Track League was hairy – especially if the Glasgow guys came through…
Grangemouth – there was a perfectly good big banked tarmac track there – ask Dave Hannah, he did all his interval training on it.
Originally the 1970 Commonwealth Games events were to be held there but the late Arthur Campbell got the UCI to condemn the track because the stand projected into the finish straight.
A wee bit of steelwork could have solved the problem but the track was duly condemned and Edinburgh got it’s velodrome at the Meadowbank Sports Centre.
Harnett – big Canadian, Curt was for some time fastest man in the world over 200 metres until Theo Bos took that mantle.
He looked impressive in the ’86 Games but the Aussies were too good for everyone, winning every track event; Gary Niewand took the sprint.
But Harnett would go on to take Commonwealth silver in the sprint in Auckland in ’90 and Victoria in ’94 to add to Olympic and Pan Am medals.
Individual Pursuit – the ’70 and ’86 Games saw great pursuit racing on the Meadowbank boards; Ian Hallam won from Danny Clark in ’70 – Hallam would take silver in the Worlds that year and go on to take Olympic team pursuit bronze medals.
In ’86 Dean Woods won; the Australian won team pursuit medals in three different Olympics whilst the teenage Englishman he beat in the final, Colin Sturgess would go on to be World Professional Pursuit Champion.
Johnson – Gordie took sprint silver behind team mate Nicholson in the ’70 Games, the pair teamed up to win the tandem but whilst Johnson was supposed to be the Aussies ‘man’ for the 10 mile his team mates rode their own race and allowed a break to slip away.
A disappointed Johnson turned professional right away and won the World Professional Sprint Championships in Leicester just weeks later.
Nicholson had done him a favour; if Gordon had won then his federation would have insisted he remain amateur for the next year.
Kent – big Kiwi, Harry won the ’70 kilometre with a 1:09, which seems pedestrian now – he was another who went down to Leicester for the Worlds with good morale and form taking kilometre silver behind big Dane, Niels Fredborg.
Lovell – a loner, spiky and sometimes downright rude – but a brilliant athlete, the late Jocelyn Lovell was one of the great track riders of his generation.
He left Edinburgh in 1970 with 10 mile gold, tandem silver and kilometre bronze. In his home Games in Edmonton in 1978 he took his talents even further winning gold in the kilometre, ten mile and tandem to add to his multiple Canadian titles and Pan Am and Worlds medals.
Musselburgh RCC – and yes, I was a Musselburgh man. But before I defected to the Honest Toun’s finest I raced in the colours of Kirkcaldy & District and Kennoway Road Club – and the Musselburgh was the club to hate.
But just like Millwall Football Club the men in blue and yellow thrived on the fact that no one like them and won just about everything there was to win with men like the late Alan Nisbet, Stewart Sutherland, Brian Salvona, Andy Laing and Rab McLeod – all excellent track riders.
Nicholson – the Aussie won the sprint and tandem at Meadowbank in 1970; John Nicholson would go on to become World Professional Sprint Champion.
He was famous for bolting his shoes direct to his pedals for maximum power transfer – and for ‘putting on’ his bike on the start line.
Dave Chapman and I had a look at his Geoffrey Butler when he was riding the sprint events at the Skol Six – the famous shoes hadn’t seen polish in years and had the look of a health hazard to us.
Open air – an outdoor track in Edinburgh, and timber at that; it didn’t age well in 1970 so how did they think things would be any better in 1986?
The story goes that funding would have been available for a simple enclosure for the track in ’86 but certain folks wanted all manner of whistles and bells, like overhead cameras on rails to follow the action and the funding was denied.
Politics – the 1970 Games saw many a wrangle grace the pages of Cycling Weekly, like Scotland’s best all round track rider, George Wylie not getting a ride – and nor did big, fast – but London based – John McMillan.
To paraphrase Mr. Armstrong; ‘it’s not just all about the bike.’
Questions – The start hut next to the finish line at Meadowbank and a keen, naive me; ‘I’m here to report on the meeting for Cycling Weekly, do you have a spare programme, please?’
One of them wades in to me because “The Comic” didn’t report the last meeting whilst the other takes the pee out of me because Cycling Weekly will be paying me a pittance.
Those Meadowbank ‘Officials Clique’ boys certainly knew how to handle the Press; thanks to John McMillan who heard the exchange and came up to the stand with a programme and apology, I appreciated your gesture, sir.
Rees – as in Mal Rees, my first track bike, I bought the frame from Charlie Orr of the Kirkcaldy & District, it had clearances like a downhill mountain bike but I loved it. I eventually sold it to a lad who won the Scottish Schoolboy sprint on it.
My amigo, Viktor always reckoned ‘Mal Rees’ was a tropical disease, he was, in fact a cycling journalist who also had a bike shop.
Sinclair – Rab was The Musselburgh’s public enemy number one, an ex-grass track rider who founded the Windsor Wheelers and was prone to enormous gear ratios – the man was ahead of his time there.
His son Willie used to ride the track too in the local Velo Sportiv club colours, with dad coaching from the sidelines; ‘roond ‘um, Wullie, roond ‘um!’
A strong roadman and time trialist Temple slipped away in a break in the 10 mile with Jocelyn Lovell and Vernon Stauble of Trinidad.
Blond Canadian, Lovell was too quick for him but Temple’s silver medal was a huge boost for Scottish cycling.
Under the boards – I never did but Ian Humphreys used to sleep there when he was through from Glasgow.
Van Lancker – Frenchman Alain was one cool track rider, I thought it was amazing how slowly he could ride the bankings at the Skol Six.
In emulating my hero at Meadowbank I slid from the top of the home banking down to the grass, losing a lot of skin and taking out Davie Urquhart in the process. Sorry Davie…
Weather – I’m convinced there’s a micro climate around Meadowbank.
We’d leave Fife in the sunshine but when we arrived at the velodrome it would be freezing – and then that haar would roll in off the Forth.
And if got even slightly damp you could forget about it drying out anytime soon.
Xclusions – we’ve already mentioned, Wylie and McMillan. (Sorry that was the best I could do).
Zero – the scratch mark – but not for the likes of me; I stopped riding the handicaps, they were too embarrassing.
I wouldn’t want a coffee table but a board or two would be nice, remind myself of when I was something at least approaching an athlete…