The little alchemists are at work. They had found the right formula at the Tokyo Games to afford a rather unexpected bronze medal. They turned it into money Wednesday, October 20, at the Stab velodrome in Roubaix (North), in the team speed final of the World Track Cycling Championships. The trio Florian Grengbo-Sébastien Vigier-Rayan Helal thus approached the Dutch giants of the discipline to confirm the return to business of the French racers.
Thursday, October 21, the young Donovan Grondin (21) did even better by offering the Blues their first gold medal of these world championships at the end of the scratch race.
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Build on this momentum? This is obviously the will of the French Cycling Federation (FFC) with a view to the Games in Paris in 2024. “Let us not forget that the track is our Olympic discipline par excellence, in which we have performed for a long time and which offers twelve titles to be fetched in Paris”, insists Christophe Manin, the national technical director (DTN) of the federation, which relies on a situation suitable for mobilizing the troops. These 2021 world championships, planned in Turkmenistan but canceled at the last moment because of Covid-19 and recovered by the FFCin extremis in Roubaix, are only a first step. Next year, the world top is back for a tour of France, this time for the Worlds scheduled in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, on the national velodrome. A great launching pad for the Games, but also for developing equipment that is still difficult to promote.
The opportunity to relaunch the construction of equipment
The golden age of velodromes has passed for ages. France only has a hundred left, of which barely eight are covered. “Paris 2024 has revived some funding opportunities, such as the Loudéac velodrome in Côtes-d’Armor, which should become a preparation center for the Games and whose project would not have existed without the help of the Agency national sport “, says Jérôme Krier, responsible for sports equipment at the FFC. The ANS should intervene for 1.9 million euros out of an overall budget of 12 million euros.
Other projects are also in the pipeline, in Laval (Mayenne), Angers (Maine-et-Loire) or in Essarts-en-Bocage (Vendée). “The west of France is catching up, like Laval, for example, which has been chasing a velodrome for forty years, continues Jérôme Krier. Deficiencies are however observed in other territories, in the South-West in particular. Local authorities are reluctant to embark on equipment which may seem expensive for a small number of practitioners, but which is nevertheless, for an outdoor structure, comparable to a skate park. “
To convince, the FFC tries to show that all its offers of activities can be declined on the track “ which is an excellent training tool for young people, but also for adults who want to get back in the saddle, in a safe space ”, emphasizes DTN Christophe Manin.
Baptisms to introduce the discipline
Opening up is also the key word of existing velodromes, such as that of Roubaix, which offers baptisms (an introductory course) to discover the track. “The tool, it’s true, impresses, says Adrien Noppe, the general manager of Stab de Roubaix, which has carried out 3,000 to 5,000 baptisms per year since its opening in 2012. We present ourselves in the bends raised at 45 ° as in front of a wall, there is a feeling of vertigo sometimes. And getting used to the fixed-gear bicycle without brakes requires you to review your traditional bicycle benchmarks. But these sensations are unique and we need to let it be known more. In fact, a velodrome can function as a large ice rink. It’s just as accessible. “
To make the equipment profitable, the use of the central area by companies within the framework of seminars is a classic of its kind, but other possibilities are envisaged, as in Laval with a mini-track of initiation for the more small. “Perhaps we should go beyond the sole velodrome, adds Adrien Noppe. At Stab de Roubaix, we have a BMX track next to it. And our economic model, we are rethinking it today within the more global framework of the Parc des sports de Roubaix, which also includes the exterior velodrome of Paris-Roubaix, with possibilities of extension towards cyclo-cross, the gravel, etc. “ In short, no longer conceive of the track bike as a separate bike, but as an entry point like any other into the cycling world. More and more wide.
A remarkable heritage
“Crazy collector. “ This is how Gilles Ardin defines himself, 64 years old and almost as much to keep everything related to cycling. Passion was born in front of his television watching the exploits of Eddy Merckx. He maintained her as an amateur cyclist, then as a manager in his club in Savigny-sur-Orge (Essonne). It was after the 2015 Worlds in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines that he decided to look at the velodromes, very present in the 30,000 photos and postcards he owns. “At the beginning of the XXe century, almost all cities had a velodrome, sometimes just clay. It is an incredible heritage, sometimes very present in the memories ”, he observes. His book lists 600 often remarkable rings, such as that of the “7 islands” in Montfermeil. A beautiful walk.