Live From the Velodrome: Inside the World’s Fastest Cycling Track

Velodrome rotator

American reporters dubbed it the “Big Pringle” for its potato-chip shaped roof. The arena’s manager told The New York Times that he refers to it as, “our little castle on top of the hill.” But Olympic cyclists in London don’t care what it’s called, as long as it produces the lightning-fast speeds they’ve been promised.

Built with more than 34 miles of wood (some shipped in from Siberia), 300,000 nails and 2,500 sections of steel work, the $150 million Velodrome might be London’s most electrifying venue—seemingly constructed for only one thing: shattering world records.

For instance, the optimal temperature for cycling speed is reported to be about 82 degrees, which is why there is a heating flow system under the track to keep it at an optimal 82.4. And since wind levels, atmospheric pressure, air density and carbon dioxide can all effect speed in subtle ways, the arena has 10 employees dedicated to monitoring everything in order to make on-the-fly adjustments to maintain perfect conditions.

The arena holds 6,000 people, but that didn’t stop London organizers from receiving 300,000 ticket requests for the events to be held inside, including the men’s and women’s team sprint and pursuit. With 42-degree bankings along the track and an extended home stretch towards the finish line, the most elite riders are looking to top speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour. Yes, the helmets are goofy, and yes, there’s enough talk about drafting and centrifugal force to make the commentary feel like a high school physics class, but if you love speed (and the potential for a 40mph bike pile-up) you might want to check out the Velodrome’s Olympic events.

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