Rio Olympic Velodrome on fast track to success
Cyclists have hailed the new track at the Rio Olympic Velodrome, which was officially inaugurated on 26 June.
Competitors from six countries gathered to take part in men's and women's omnium competitions, each consisting of six races and time trials.
“The track is fast and smooth and the wood is great,” said Switzerland’s Gael Suter, winner of the men's event. “I think some great times will be done in the Olympics. I can't wait to come back in August. There will be some great races.
“I’m very happy to discover this beautiful track. It was a great opportunity,” added the Swiss, who has already qualified for Rio 2016.
Meanwhile, Australia's Alexander Porter, who is hoping to make it onto his country’s eight-strong men’s cycling team for Rio, was equally impressed.
“It's a very good track. I really liked how it feels, it's very smooth and really good for racing. It felt awesome to ride on. It feels better to ride on than the one I’m used to at home. I’m getting a real buzz from being here,” Porter said.
Located in Barra Olympic Park, the Velodrome was the last of the venues to be completed, and was officially handed over to the Rio 2016 Organising Committee by the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman commented: “I am satisfied not only to be receiving the key for the last sporting venue, but to be able to say that our venues are ready for the big stars of the Games: the athletes.”
As well as enabling the track to be tested, the omnium event gave volunteers and staff at the velodrome their first experience of the venue in action. "The energy of the team was very positive,” said Rio 2016 track cycling manager Beatriz Resende.
Brazilian competitors were well represented, and it was a local cyclist, 17-year-old Carolina Barbosa Alves do Nascimento, who won the women's omnium. It was a remarkable achievement for the teenager who was competing in her first ever race on a wooden track. And while Rio 2016 has come too soon for her, she is already eying a place at the following Olympic Games.
“I never imagined I would do it," she said through tears of joy. "Cycling on the Olympic track is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. I am going to do everything I can to be at Tokyo 2020."
Another Brazilian, Armando Camargo, who will be at Rio 2016 emphasised that the new track was a major boost for cycling in the country. “It’s something that Brazil didn't have before,” he said. “For track cycling it is essential.”