News: Huge relief for VeloPark Road Circuit


A well known and long campaigner for the Velopark, Michael Humphreys gives his view on the VeloPark in North East London

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Huge relief for VeloPark Road Circuit


Photo: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority 

About the campaign

Michael writes, I first went to a ‘public open session’ in 2003 where I learned Eastway was going to go under regeneration plans, Games or no Games. There would be nothing in return, relocation or legacy for road or off-road, so I arranged for some of us to speak before the London Assembly when all the boroughs decided on planning permission for the Olympic bid in 2004.

We formed the Eastway Users’ Group which won planning conditions to govern a relocation and a legacy. At the subsequent planning inquiry, I called Seb Coe for cross-examination. He gave me his assurances and the very next day, following a lot of work with political sponsors who had understood how community interests were being opposed by developer and sporting body alike, I got a call to say ‘you’ve won’.

This meant we could move to Hog Hill and not the M25 at Rammey Marsh. I signed the legal agreement on the relocation and I insisted on the clause for interim provision in case Hog Hill couldn’t open as soon as Eastway closed in autumn 2006. That meant when construction was delayed, we were able to get the Royals in docklands laid tarmac for us. As Hog Hill opened in September 2008, many said it was too hilly, but the national youth champs I promoted there in 2009 showed how 100-strong fields of youth riders could negotiate it fine.

It’s become one of the top road circuits for E/1/2s to get a proper race and its lower 1km circuit regularly hosts LVRC events. We really hope it will be sustainable after its high level of funding ends because it’s a great facility in a wonderful place that was only identified and secured by our efforts.

The legacy circuit design process continued throughout, with an agreed set of plans approved in 2009. The only problem was the corporation responsible for legacy and development had no intention of delivering the scheme, preferring its own plans for high cost riverside housing instead.

In conjunction with Lee Valley Park, Sport England and British Cycling working with Mike Taylor at Hopkins Architects, this was resisted and turned around into the revised design seen today, with the circuit in a more confined space and off-road areas daisy-chained around a wide area N and S of the A12.

Make no mistake, this has been a lot of work to represent the community of people who actually did cycle sport on the site where London’s Olympics took place. Without our efforts, there might have been a ‘pre-bid’ velodrome like Newport’s but there would have been nothing in return for road and off-road riders who enjoyed the site that London’s bid book said was ‘derelict’.

The level of personal and organisational opposition from certain quarters of British Cycling was unexpected and extremely unhelpful. Whatever motives or expectations held by those people, they can certainly join with the community now to enjoy the amenity to the maximum.

There are concerns about the political and financial pressures on the operator* but at a personal level, it is reassuring to know the community efforts which enabled this development are recognised. Our long campaign secured the principle to get the legacy built, so now we hope cycle sport and community interests can find a place in its operation.

Make sure your club organises sessions and racing. It’s there for everyone and it’s there because riders need it to be. Enjoy!


Photo: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority 



One direction …

… and the other

The Velopark road circuit is really good. Huge relief after so many meetings trying to get the design right. Very strange to be riding and taking in the views only visualised and modelled. There are lots of gradients and turns that will make races line-out. The rounded loops can all be pedalled, like the top of Oxo and after the Vale into the finish on Eastway. It’s right there in terms of effort, firmly between Hillingdon and Hog Hill, but with plenty of places to give it the hammer.

Anti-clockwise makes most sense for racing, and it’s hard with four real rises from the bridge before the last rise-and-fall turn drops you onto the slightly rising finish straight. T’other way round is just as good though there’s a lot less of a finish straight that way.

The teardrop loop by the W of the velodrome keeps on turning and is a challenge whether pedalling up or freewheeling down. The underpass actually seems quite exciting as it leads you into whatever next section. The bridges don’t feel any narrower than the rest of the circuit and it’s interesting to cross the river – More interesting than it would have been to go over the wide bridge that’s still there to the S. The turn to get around between the bridges is a beauty with a flat camber that you can pedal – up to a certain speed….

The rumble strips in margins on the bridges and overpass at the east work well – you wouldn’t want to go on them, but doing so won’t spell doom. We did notice there are bumps or ramps going on or off each river bridge and a puddle on the S bridge nearest the velodrome that could indicate long-term concerns.

Going around the BMX and E end does not feel like you’re just ‘getting around’ because the elevation changes put the focus on positioning and effort, with wider views in each turn. The straight is plenty long enough into the finish going west for a proper sprint and the little rise into the line gives interest.

Whatever wind there is, will make itself felt here, and there’s a possibility for complete westerly block-headwinds to be funnelled by the velodrome onto the finish.

Fitments and furnishing on the road circuit are top-notch and utilitarian. The surface is large-grained tarmac which shouldn’t be slippy in the wet. It’s reinforced where needed for vehicle access. The fencing is a lot less intrusive than it was going to be and the 3m margin makes for an uncluttered visual field so you can concentrate on riding. The wider views keep changing as you go around. It’s a big relief to note the A12 is only glimpsed and doesn’t dominate.

Only slight reservation is the kink they put in ‘behind’ the judges’ cabin – nearest the velodrome – which will pinch on a big field, but it’s all flat kerbs. Possibly could do with clearer demarcation there too, right where everyone comes out of the velodrome to start riding, but I’m told there is signage on the way. (Maybe paint the kerbs red and white just there and stencil yellow box hatching to prevent hanging around trackside for ‘orientation’ as riders first come out?)


Photo: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority 

There is a weird acoustic effect as you pass by the velodrome where the air-con plant and reflected traffic noise sound like a jet landing on your back. The judges’ cabin/circuit entry area is congested, windy, cold and overshadowed, but that makes the wider circuit that bit nicer.

Views for spectators should be good from on top of the underpass or on the velodrome balcony, which could make things quieter for judges…

The cosy-looking judges’ cabin should be just about high enough to view the line over spectators, along the straight and down into the underpass. There’s a down-lighting gantry bending over the line that John Birch couldn’t tell us anything about. (If there is supposed to be a finish camera gantry opposite the cabin, this gantry will be right in the way…?) Induction loop is installed under the tarmac.

The smaller circuit options possibly won’t be used as intended because the links at the judges’ cabin seem really tight U-turns and the teardrop at S is a bit of a roundabout with a lot of elevation change – too much for the average little one to enjoy. But this makes it possible to work variations on the full circuit – straight on to/from the bridge, round the full loop OR an evil crit-style kink where you go wrong-way on the top of the teardrop loop. However the elements show the circuit is hard enough to be as challenging as Eastway, so not a real problem.

All in all, the road circuit has been really well designed and built within the confines of the site. It’s well finished, especially width, camber, turns, gradients and the flush kerbs – and should last to provide racing and training that could even be an improvement on Eastway.


Photo: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority 

It will not be an easy circuit to race; just sitting-in will be hard as the field gets lined-out around the turns and the short gradients. It makes lapping at speed interesting enough for regular visitors to train and ride in company. Slight concerns about reflected road noise, overshadowing and congestion by the entry out of the velodrome show how different this site is now. It will never match Eastway’s secluded natural surroundings but grass and planting looks ready to develop. The lighting and its presence in such a prominent site does a lot more to take it to the people. Riding at night is a real plus, though watch out for frost.

Whether the off-road areas can be given such a positive review is becoming a real concern. This is not a review as we did not get access, but from first sight over the fences. the trails appear to be tiny and convoluted within small parcels of land. It is hard to see how mass-start racing can take place to allow enough overtaking opportunities for the specified field-size of 200 riders on a lap.

These things take time to settle-down, but the highly-worked features seen in trail sections and the shared-use riverside pathways appear to be unsuited to popular MTB XC racing that thrived on Eastway. “Stay and play, but don’t put on your race face”…?

Further Information and Costs of using the circuit


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