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Bringing Bob back to life: Restoring SA's velodromes

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South Africa has a rich history and track cycling infrastructure. Which is begging, to be revived. (Photo: R24)
South Africa has a rich history and track cycling infrastructure. Which is begging, to be revived. (Photo: R24)

Track racing is one of the purest disciplines of cycling. 

Riders compete on technologically simple bicycles with no gears or brakes, which means that your legs need to do the talking. South Africa has a rich track cycling history, and many of our local cycling legends learnt their trade on velodromes around the country.

"Track cycling was once a prevalent discipline in South Africa. There was a track in every town, township and mine. We raced track in summer, sometimes twice a week, and road in winter," says Pretoria cycling legend Bruce Reyneke.

South African frame builders such as Francois du Toit and Gotti Hansen built track bicycles and raced them in trade teams on weekends. 

The biography of Basil Cohen: South Africa’s Mr Cycling reveals that black competitive cycling on South Africa’s gold mines flourished for nearly three decades between 1950 and 1980, with little to no publicity.

Unfortunately, as the popularity of this discipline dwindled, municipalities responsible for the management and maintenance of velodromes, gave them little attention. These facilities fell into disrepair, and the sport of track cycling suffered.

"The Bob van Renen stadium was closed 12-years ago due to mismanagement and corruption. About a year ago, we started asking questions around why and what is needed to get it open again," says Martin Lombard, Chairman of Afriforum Krugersdorp.

"Following the recent local elections, it formed part of the mayoral cleaning campaign, and we were once again allowed entry to the facility to access the damage and start the cleanup process. Electrical and plumbing infrastructure was stolen. So far, we have removed 60 tons of garbage and rubble."

"Our short term goal is to take over the running of the stadium on behalf of the city council, which can host a variety of sports including cycling, athletics, rugby and soccer. Public interest in this project will likely see that happen in February. We will then restore the stadium with the assistance of sponsors and fundraising."

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