Olympian wheels into velodrome fight

Kim Nguyen and Mick Hollingsworth at the Maurice Kirby Velodrome.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

For much of his life, former Olympian cyclist Mick Hollingsworth rode by Noble Park’s Maurice Kirby Velodrome on the way to work.

He cycled to work at a Gillette factory on Princes Highway, not far from the circular track that is under threat of demolition.

He may have had only the occasional lap, but it’s the casual riders – the seniors or the kids learning to ride – that will miss this venue the most, he says.

The mooted demolition by Greater Dandenong Council has activated the local cycling community.

Local cyclists say they are set to revive a cycling club at the track, described as “disused” and “sub-standard” by the council.

In the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Mr Hollingsworth rode a creditable 14th in a stellar field including future Tour De France champ Eddie Merckx.

Visiting the velodrome recently, an amazingly fit Mr Hollingsworth said that the track was in a “lot better nick” than he’d expected.

It was far from being beyond repair, or requiring complete reconstruction.

“There’s just one corner that got some water under it and got a bit lumpy.”

It isn’t a venue fit for Olympic competition but it’s a safe haven for senior riders, families and children to ride.

“Out on the track, it’s just you and the bike.

“It’s a great place to start learning to ride. If it was promoted a bit, they’d be amazed how many would be riding on it.”

In arguing against the track’s retention, the council stated it was unlikely to encourage the “greatest level of extra cycling” compared to other infrastructure.

It presented “risk factors” due to soccer and cricket being played on fields inside the track, the council stated.

There was “no known demand” for a competitive cycling track at Noble Park, with no registered clubs and minimal support for the facility.

Within several weeks, up to 30 cyclists including Marcel Lema are set to form a club at the Noble Park track.

Their membership is well above the 10 minimum to register with Cycling Victoria.

Mr Lema, an Australian-representative rider, started training at the track as a teenager.

Now it’s about putting something back by saving community infrastructure, Mr Lema says.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. What senior riders or kids learning to ride? As a local resident that uses the park WEEKLY (multiple times a week) there is rarely a rider on the track.

    Also the argument that it would be a great place to teach rides to ride is laughable! Surely the walking/riding track that is part of the redevelopment, being flat and not on an angle as the current track is, would be a much much better option for teaching kids to ride. Its bad enough keeping a child upright on a flat piece of concrete let alone trying to do so on an angled Velodrome.
    The fight to save this place is about 10 years to late. The boom for the area that the redevelopment will have for local kids and local public is amazing! The local Noble Park tennis club, for example, is booming with the courts full of children week nights for training and weekends for competition. To the point where they have won the last two summer Premier Clubs award (did you guys do a story on that?). So why the council should be pressured into keeping an abandoned track to get in the way of building up facilities that are used on a daily basis is sad to me!

    Mr Kirby should be continued to be celebrated and perhaps the walking/riding track could bare his name and celebrate his tremendous service to the community!

    I have faith that the council will make the right decision on this matter!

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