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Matt Maher: Backpedalling on England cycling unveiling venue

A couple of aspects to last week’s announcement of the England cycling team for the Commonwealth Games could be considered unfortunate.

Katie Archibald (left) and Laura Kenny of Great Britain celebrate after winning the Women's Madison Final during day three of the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup at Lee Valley VeloPark, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday December 16, 2018. Photo credit should read: Steven Paston/PA Wire.
Katie Archibald (left) and Laura Kenny of Great Britain celebrate after winning the Women's Madison Final during day three of the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup at Lee Valley VeloPark, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday December 16, 2018. Photo credit should read: Steven Paston/PA Wire.

The first was the location chosen for the press call. Derby Velodrome is a fine venue and the current training base for the national squad, while Manchester undergoes refurbishment.

But it is also the place denied the chance to host the Games’ track cycling events due to a lack of seats, something its bosses are thought to remain slightly miffed about.

The second awkward moment came via a quote from Laura Kenny in the official announcement distributed to newspapers and media organisations far and wide.

Kenny, the five-time Olympic champion and de facto captain of the England team, explained how she couldn’t wait to race again in front of a home crowd, adding: “Especially at the Lee Valley VeloPark, a place with one or two happy memories for me!”

That is hardly a surprising sentiment from Kenny, who grew up a short ride from Lee Valley and won her first Olympic titles on the track a decade ago. Yet her words also delivered a reminder track cycling, one of the Games’ biggest attractions, will take place more than 100 miles from Birmingham, something organisers have preferred not to promote too much.

The team announcement was a memorable day for several young cyclists who received a maiden Commonwealth call-up, among them Shrewsbury’s Grace Lister and Stafford’s Hayden Norris. Though both may share a slight disappointment at having to travel a little further from home to compete, the location of the venue could hardly quell their excitement and pride at being part of the Games.

Both Lister and Norris were introduced to cycling through their fathers. Grace’s dad Ian was a long-time member of Wolverhampton Wheelers, while Michael Norris worked as a mechanic for British Cycling.

Yet it is those youngsters without a family or parental link which cycling risks missing out on if it cannot provide facilities to maintain any interest the Games might generate.

It is why the campaign to build a velodrome in the West Midlands as a legacy to Birmingham 2022 remains so important.

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