Velodrome sessions are instant hit

THE battle to get Glasgow fit is being tackled at one of its newest sporting arenas.

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A member of the Scottish cycling team takes to the track
A member of the Scottish cycling team takes to the track

Following the successful Scottish National Track Championships, the emphasis at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome at the Emirates Arena has, for now, switched back to getting young and old on the track.

The competitive event was in aid of the Braveheart Fund, which supports the development of young Scottish riders.

Two key members of the team at the East End velodrome hope that by opening the doors to local people they will find the next Sir Chris Hoy who can be helped by the fund.

Gordon Watson, 31, is the cycle technician and Kevin Stewart, 21, the cycling coach. For both, their new workplace gives them the opportunity to provide local people with access to cycling and tackling fitness issues.

Glasgow Life, which runs the city's sporting facilities, is working with the velodrome to offer people the chance to take part in taster sessions, where they can hire out a cycle and experience riding round the track.

Mr Stewart's role sees him working as the coach for the Scottish sprint cycling team, as well as guiding those members of the public taking their first circuit.

He is a former British cycle champion and national record holder who competed for Scotland as a teenager at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010.

He said: "A large emphasis is being placed on getting local people in and getting them on the track. The feedback we have had is great.

"Our taster sessions are booked out until December and we have been open only a matter of weeks.

"People are really loving the process that they can come from never having ridden on a track before to being able to be at a racing standard within the space of four sessions.

"Level 1 of the sessions is essentially showing people the basics of riding a bike on the track. So long as you can show you do that you can progress to the next level.

"Level 2 introduces some more technical aspects of riding a bike, such as accelerating in and out of the saddle and group riding.

"Level 3 is a two-hour session and, again, is more advanced. A cyclist would need to show a level of fitness that would allow them to cycle for 30 minutes as part of a group.

"Here we introduce skills such as riding in close proximity to other riders and give them a chance to participate in an Italian pursuit race.

"Level 4 allows our cyclists to sit an accreditation to become an registered rider.

"Once they become a registered rider they can take part in open sessions, structured training, competition, bunch races and track leagues. As well as improving their abilities, their fitness levels are also increasing."

Mr Watson, the cycle technician, is responsible for repairing any damage and maintaining the fleet of track bikes, as well as the track surface.

He said: "On a daily basis I need to go round the track inspecting it for damage.

"The bikes can cause damage to it through their wheel nuts and pedals, which dig into the wood, the splinters have to be removed from the track and the track has to be filled in with a wood filler to maintain it.

"When people turn up for the taster sessions I get them fitted on a bike suitable for their size, make sure the saddle height is correct, their helmet is fitted correctly and that they are safe to get started.

"I also help Kevin out when he is coaching."

Mr Watson previously worked as a cycle mechanic at the Billy Bilsland Cycles shop in Saltmarket.

He is a keen amateur cyclist and his love for the sport and his involvement in the cycling community has grown over the years.

He said: "I served my apprenticeship at the shop and became a fully qualified cycle mechanic. It was through my work there that I got involved with Glasgow City Riderz, Glasgow's only youth cycle team, which is based at Bellahouston Park.

"Through Riderz, I started to sit my various coaching accreditation with British Cycling."

The velodrome is home to 95 track bikes – which retail for about £600-£700 – in a variety of sizes and these can be hired by anyone who wants to give it a try. The only requirement is that they know how to ride a bike.

People can come in and pay £10.20 for an hour's session under the supervision of a British cycling coach.

douglas.blane@ heraldandtimes.co.uk

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