Pine and sweat. In 800 days, the parquet floor of the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines velodrome will squeal under the wheels of runners ready to do battle. But for the moment, the 5,000 seats on the site are patiently waiting in their case. If the place is usually the stronghold of the French cycling team, Tony Estanguet and some neophytes from the Paris 2024 club were able to try their hand at the thrill of 45-degree turns on Thursday April 28. The first stage of the tour of the Olympic and Paralympic sites also offered the track of the national velodrome to the general public for an initiation. The challenges remain numerous on the 50 sites, but the national velodrome is ready.
Flags and bags stamped with the Olympic rings, aero helmets and carbon bikes. No, it’s not Olympians who are setting off but members of the Paris 2024 club, for their baptism of track cycling. “800 days from the ceremony, the opening to the territory is important. We want to develop the place of sport in the daily life of the French, we want them to be able to meet the athletes, that they are fully behind the team of France”, underlines Tony Estanguet, president of the organizing committee of the Paris Games.
To host the first act of this event, the national velodrome was logically necessary: “It’s incredible equipment that welcomes the very high level, with the world championships in October 2022, but also practice for everyone. Sports enthusiasts can discover a discipline that we don’t necessarily know”adds the conductor of Paris 2024, mounted in the saddle for the occasion. Completed in 2014, as a legacy of the failed bid for Paris 2012, the national velodrome is one of the spearheads of the Olympic structures. “In Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines we will host 5 Games events, track and road cycling, BMX, mountain biking and we have national golf. We have the will to register the equipment in the long term, to reach the population of the department”, corroborates Catherine De Romémont, municipal councilor of the city.
For the event, Florian Grengbo, bronze medalist in Tokyo in team sprint, and Alexandre Léauté, Paralympic pursuit champion, gave their advice to the public. “The track is very beautiful, very fast, it is one meter higher than most other tracks and its design is very specific with very long turns which allow you to have good times”, underlined Florian Grengbo. In the champion’s wheel, the general public gritted their teeth to keep up the pace. “Most people don’t know the discipline, it’s very confidential. So being able to introduce my sport and give people the banana is important”, smiles the champion who describes, not without humour, his discipline as a sport of “big thigh”.
Florian Grengbo savors it. Four years ago, he drove in Bourg-en-Bresse on the road, in diametrically different training conditions. Since the room was created, the runner spends 6 days a week on the track. “It’s not given to all athletes to have their training track as a competition site. We know the track by heart, each slat, each angle.” A real bonus to approach the Games.
Tfind the right place for each sport is a major challenge and questions remain. After the rumble of some basketball players, the qualifying tournament, which was to be organized in hall 6 of the exhibition center will be relocated. Cities like Orléans are proposing but it remains very likely, according to the OCOG, that the tournament will remain in Paris. Several options are on the table and will be studied in July.
As for boxing, and its technical problems, the Roland-Garros site should be maintained. “There are still a lot of problems on the sites but we are finding solutions”, recognizes Tony Estanguet. In the velodrome, the problem does not arise. The gleaming enclosure is ready to welcome professional athletes and the general public to give a good pedal stroke to the tour of the sites, before entering the final sprint.