Track cycling world records may prove elusive at the Rio Olympics with riders describing the polished wooden boards as soft and sticky at the brand new velodrome. Although the last of the venues to be delivered to Games organisers after a catalogue of problems that meant no test event was possible, the velodrome looks impressive.
But reaction from the riders was mixed as training began in earnest on Thursday. “At first it looks very fast, but now I think it is not very fast at all,” Germany’s Rene Enders, twice a bronze medallist in team sprint, said after training on Thursday.
“The boards have a lot of grip, and the wood is soft. It’s a difficult track to race on because the wood is new and a little bit damp. It will get faster, in a few years, but not during these Games. But it’s okay because it’s the same for everybody.”
Team mate Roger Kluge, one of the favourites for the multi-discipline omnium, described the boards as “sticky”.
“The track is a little bit like Cali (Colombia), and it’s fast in the corners, with a long straight, maybe a little too long for the racing. But it’s nice; a beautiful, big stadium, and it looks big on the inside,” he said.
“It’s a little dirty because they are still working on it, so I hope they can clean it.”
Britain set a world record when winning the men’s team pursuit in London four years ago on a track where several Olympic records were also smashed.
Australia’s Sam Welsford, who will be part of the team trying to dethrone Britain having pipped them to the world title in London in March, believes the Rio track will speed up in the days leading to the start of the race programme.
“It feels smooth. It’s a little soft but the more people ride on it its going to get harder,” he told reporters.
“It’s a hard track to try and go for the record on just because of the shape. It’s got longer straights and shorter bends. The venue is incredible.
“There is still a lot going on — you see cables laying around all over the place, but all that matters is the track is ready and (on) race day we are ready to go.”
Construction of the velodrome fell behind schedule when the company in charge filed for bankruptcy, but it was handed over in June despite work continuing.
Despite the last-minute completion, Australia’s sprint coach Gary West was full of praise for the venue.
“It’s beautiful. It’s a world-class facility. There is still a bit of work going on, but the track itself is amazing,” he said. “It’s going to be a great facility for the Games.”