WEDNESDAY FEB 19 / 2020 / by Andrew Talati

Not a good outcome for the track riders

Tamworth Velodrome before upgrade

Back in 2013 the Tamworth local council said that they were going to shut down the local Velodrome which wasn't a good outcome for the track riders of the town. This started the negotiation process to provide a new facility to replace the Velodrome. However the council was not coming to the party in contributing the full amount needed to build so the track riders needed to source some kind of funding themselves.

All good things take time

Tamworth Velodrome - Fisheye viewPhoto Gareth Gardner

So Mark Stewart started the process of looking at what Local, State and Federal government grants were available with Ray Griffin and Mike Rowland also heavily assisting the campaign. This involved writing to and petitioning their local Members of Parliament for their support to get it off the ground.

At the time Barnaby Joyce was making election promises in his local area and as Tamworth was experiencing an obesity community health problem, a new riding facility provided one of the solutions. It wasn't a quick process but all good things take time and after a few years of lobbying it all came to fruition.

Construction of the Tamworth Velodrome & Criterium trackConstruction of the Tamworth Velodrome & Criterium track - photo courtesy of Mark Stewart

The joint sporting facility with athletics, cycling and equestrian promotes a healthier lifestyle and a base to build cycling in Tamworth, benefiting the district's population of 60,000 people.

The council was promoting the idea of the Northern Inland Centre of Sporting Excellence which formed the masterplan, with many different sport groups being supported including the athletics community who were needing a new synthetic track as the drought was making it difficult to have a grass track.

Construction nearing the end of the Tamworth Velodrome & Criterium trackTamworth Velodrome & Criterium track nearly completed - photo courtesy of Mark Stewart

So it worked out well with the Crit (Criterium) track built around the outside of the Velodrome and Athletics track. Joint lobbying from other clubs in town was the key and being receptive to the joint funding model. Together they raised the economic and health benefits to the town.

Grand Opening 

Opening Tamworth Velodrome with Mayor Col Murray & Barnaby Joyce Opening Tamworth Velodrome with Mayor Col Murray & Barnaby Joyce  (Right)

In October 2019 the Premier Gladys Berejiklian came to town and the Federal Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce to cut the ribbon and opened the new velodrome and Criterium track which also included an athletics track and an outdoor equestrian area.

Tamworth Velodrome RacingTamworth Velodrome Racing - photo courtesy Mark Stewart

The Velodrome and Crit track is free to the public with the Tamworth Cycling Club collecting a nominal fee for racing that goes towards the maintenance costs of the facility. The council was supportive of the Club becaue it's volunteer run with limited revenues. They came to a suitable arrangement based on the expected numbers and the groups' planned usage of the facilities.

Tamworth Cycling Festival - building local tourism

They are growing the Tamworth Cycling Festival and the new facility will allow them to have track and road riding all within a weekend with Mark's dream to have a Country to Coast event.

There are similar velodromes in Bathurst, Dubbo (have just opened a 6.5m outdoor velodrome) and Coff's Harbour so they could create a series that goes from Bathurst, to Dubbo and Tamworth and then onto Coff's Harbour following the same style of Velodrome and different Crit tracks creating an exciting event that boosts regional tourism.

The next stage is building awareness of the facility to not only attract an expected 100,000 people from within the region but an additional 60,000 from surrounding districts and interstate.

All up for Stage 1 and Stage 2 (new hockey pitch and upgrading the existing two hockey pitch surfaces and Equine/Live stock area, the Federal Government invested 8.5M, the NSW Government 4.5M and the Tamworth Regional Council 3M.

Grass roots cycling - Starts at social

Tamworth Group Ride - the Dam RideTamworth Group Ride - the Dam Ride - photo courtesy Mark Stewart

It all starts with experimenting with the club scene, some people get the bug and want to race, while some are attracted to the social scene. 

Tamworth Group ride in local countrysideTamworth Group ride in local countryside - photo couresty Mark Stewart

It's more important to make sure that everyone is included as you don't want to isolate people when establishing a club.

A Facebook group called Tamworth Rides assists in Adhoc rides in Tamworth and also provising advice on closed roads, resurfacing etc.

'Crisis' talks in Tamworth

Tamworth Group ride in the local countryside with windmillsTamworth Group ride in local countryside - photo couresty Mark Stewart

Usually at 5pm on a Friday afternoon the local riders get together to have a 'Crisis chat' about men's mental health issues, sometimes they meet a little earlier to have lunch at the local Bowls Club. It's about getting together with a close group of friends that ride, drink socially, have a chat and who call each other good friends.

Keep supporting each other

These chats are so popular that there are even some guys who don't ride or who may be injured and come to the crisis talks, as people want to be included and catching up with mates is just as important.

Forming bonds

Recently there were fires at Moonbi, 20kms north of Tamworth and there was a member whose family was fire affected, so he put the call out on the WhatsApp channel asking if any of the guys were available to come and help and the group got behind him and lend him a hand.

Is everything going ok?

Tamworth Group ride in local countrysideTamworth Group ride in local countryside - photo couresty Mark Stewart

This group is more than a social group. They've become mates and they help each other out. With men's mental health there may well be underlying issues at home or at work and it's good to sit down and talk things out with a mate, and that's why they are called crisis chats, talking through the crisis with a supportive group of people.

It's good to have a chat and a beer while debriefing on the week and make sure everyone is going ok. They find that when you're rolling along on a ride you don't really want the whole peloton to hear, so if you form a club that has a social side, you can have these kinds of events and chats with people socially.

From social riding to racing

Some of the guys involved in the local group riding scene also have a crack at racing and get into the Tamworth Cycling Club kit to do a bit of track racing and criterium.

Things to check out in Tamworth

Local attractions and things to do in Tamworth:

Tamworth Cycling Festival features events catering to cyclists of all levels