Whanganui’s velodrome has been closed because of concerns about the deterioration of the track, with a cyclist fortunate to escape injury after riding through a rotten board.
Whanganui District Council’s property manager Leighton Toy said considerable work went into restoring the track to a suitable condition for the Downer New Zealand Masters Games earlier this month.
“However, we have received advice that a cyclist using the track last week had their wheel go through a rotten board,” Toy said.
“Thankfully the rider managed to stay on the bike, but it is recommended that the velodrome track be closed for the foreseeable future.”
Track technician Kerry McGuinness said the track is getting to the stage where its deterioration is happening faster than repairs can be done.
“The boards can appear on the surface and from below to be in good condition, but there is potential for injury because they are rotting in the middle,” McGuinness said.
“When it rains, water runs down the track and carries dirt which settles between the boards. This then traps the moisture which sits there for months at a time. Over 25 years this has caused rotting across the boards, in the middle where it’s harder to detect.”
McGuinness said summer weather has recently revealed some of the problem.
“When we have two or three weeks of hot weather, rot inside the boards expands and becomes visible. Then the damage starts to show significantly. Lately we have been having to fix boards daily, as new damage surfaces nearly every day.”
He said it’s difficult and time-consuming to identify where the underlying issues are.
“Tap checks can assist this identification, but with around 300 boards running from the top to the bottom of the track, supported by 393 trusses, there’s a lot to check.
“Over the last few years we have repaired what we’ve considered is needed to make the track safe to ride on, but with the incident last week, it’s evident that it is just not safe enough.”
Cycling Whanganui president Ian Murphy said the track has visibly deteriorated after recent rain, followed by hot, sunny weather.
“Cycling Whanganui is suspending all activity on the velodrome under its control until further notice due to health and safety concerns with the track,” Murphy said.
“This includes training, club nights and the 72nd running of the Rivercity Wheelrace. We do not anticipate the venue reopening before the end of the ’20/21 track season in a few weeks. We are continuing to work closely with the council to find a way to resolve these matters for the longer term.”
Former New Zealand head cycling coach Ron Cheatley said the council has no option but to close the facility pending repairs.
“No one want to see injuries occurring as the result of an unsafe track.
“All my life there’s been a velodrome here, and in fact Whanganui has had a velodrome since as early as 1877. We’re now at a critical junction, where we’re very close to not having one at all.”
Cheatley said it’s important for the community to have its say on the future of the velodrome, which will be included in the council’s long-term plan consultation next month.
The council resolved to consider next steps and the future of the Whanganui velodrome as part of its 2021/31 long-term plan consultation process in March-April this year, after an independent review report was presented at a council meeting on February 9.