Cycling Weekly: How did you first get involved in building tracks?

Ron Webb: When I was a cyclist I came from Australia to live and race in Holland for seven or eight years. We used to travel to events, and sometimes you’d only arrive at a stadium an hour before the event. You’d get on a track to look for a riding line and I would think there were good tracks and bad tracks and it was just luck whether you got a good or bad one. Then I started to realise there were a lot of people building tracks that had no knowledge of cycling.

For 12 years I promoted the Skol Six in Wembley and events in Denmark and Hanover. Other promoters started asking me if I’d build their tracks in Europe: Bremen, Maastricht and Frankfurt. Then I thought I should look a bit of closer at this. So I started building permanent tracks. It was something I’d do out of necessity then after a while it became my baby. Athens track [originally built 1990] was the first one I had a hand in designing. From then on I designed and built all my own tracks.

What characteristics define a Ron Webb track?

RW: I go for a shape that I thought as a bike rider was the best to ride on. There are tracks with very short straight and tracks with very long straights and I think mine is a good compromise. The track is exactly the same from bottom to top. The same width all the way round.

Will you be coming to watch the Olympics?

RW: Oh yeah. I put my name on the list to buy tickets. I’d like to bring my wife and friends.

As an Aussie based in the UK, who will you be cheering?

RW: I’m non-committal. I act as a consultant for the cycling section of the Australian Institute of Sport but for me the best bike riders on the track are the ones who should win bike races and they are the ones I will be cheering for. Between Britain and Australia there should be a good carbuncle of medals. But you can never trust the French – they always get better.

There are a number of other nations coming through as well now…

RW: If you look at Beijing, Chris and Vicky and all those who won gold medals, it’s so wonderful. But whatever you do, you raise the bar. Other people come up

to standard. Like Denmark, New Zealand.

Ron Webb at the London 2012 velodrome track



Rob Webb at the trackside, London 2012 velodrome

Why do you think we have seen those nations coming through?

RW: They’ve also got a couple of good tracks now. I think if we look at [track] cycling, it’s a facilities-led sport now and for those countries that don’t have the facilities for training, it’s difficult. The chances of seeing someone coming from Africa or even America where they don’t have those sorts of facilities are very low. It’s making it more elitist and that’s not a good idea with the Olympics. It doesn’t fit with the Olympic ideal – but I think that is long gone.

How could cycling reverse that?

RW: To keep grass-roots going. If you keep those local tracks going. Kids of nine, 10, 11 years old, they don’t know who the big stars are; they just want to beat each other. That’s what we all did when I was young. We should have more two-wheel centres around the country – in a park, with criterium circuits and all. Bike riding out on the road is becoming intimidating. Cycling is also technically a very expensive sport. One of the best things about Manchester, Newport and Calshot is that kids can rent a bike and get out there on the track.

What happens when you finish building the London Olympics track?

RW: I’d like a quiet life. What I’d like to do now is retire properly and sit on a nice white beach in the South Seas and watch the grass skirts go by!

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  • Bill Dewey

    I met Ron and his wife way back in the late 50′s I think when I lived in Staines/ Virginia Water and when he owned G-BIKE at elstree I think and I had G-BGHM a Robin aiglon at Fairoaks. I used to race at Herne Hill and Paddington tracks and was a Chartered Structural Engineer. We had a lot in common and pity we didn’t keep in touch as we might have helped each other.
    Bill

  • dick meredith

    have not seen or heard from ron for a number of years but i know growing up in penshurst he was cycle crazy and it is great to see a local be successful and realise their dreams good on you ron

  • Gerry O’Brien

    Being a similar age to Ron Webb and a lifetime cycling enthusiast too, I share a lot of his views. I am disappointed though that 250m tracks are now the established norm because I think they affect some racing events adversely. It is a better design for the Madison and six-day events in general but when we are measuring ability in the individual sprint, the various pursuits, the Kierin and indeed the points race the 250m track has too much influence. In the sprint and kierin riding from the front is the only ride assuming athletes with very little difference in ability. Coming around the outside is very much longer and with the rise and fall of the track (transition)make it very much harder. I would rather short bankings and longer straights so we get shoulder to shoulder charges – probably better with a 300m track for 1000m sprint. A much more enthralling sprint. In pursuiting it is too ‘easy’ for a rider to get a slower starting opponent in his sights in the same straight. In the points race it is too ‘easy’ to gain a lap and therebye neutralise the race.
    However I’m glad that at last we do have indoor tracks so racing can be planned and executed without the weather spoiling everything. I would like to say that Paddington track on a fine Summer evening took some beating for enjoyment for riders and spectators alike. That track was ripped up for no reason and replaced by nothing in particular – a disgrace on the Council concerned. Finally I think the Worlds at Leicester were a fantastic spectacle (thanks to the late Benny Foster) with an electric atmosphere because it was nice weather, it was outside and on a 300m floodlit track albeit with unfortunately a long banking short straight design. All kids should start racing on tracks and graduate to time trials and road racing at 17yrs old.
    Gerry

  • ian franklin

    Geoff can contact me at ianfranklin@rocketmail.com

  • Ian Franklin

    I met Ron during the 1960s when he was promoting Skol. Its amazing that the guy is still going. Incidentally if Geoff is serious about his book, I’d love to contribute and help publish.

  • stuart stanton

    If Geoff Waters would like to contact me info@youthtourofwales.org I am willing to share my extensive knowledge ot the Paris tracks. The story of the ‘Rafle’ at the the Vel d’Hiver is one all cyclists should be aware of and is touched on in ‘Arthur Linton – an account of his life’. There is a contemporary French film on the subject due for release next year as well.

  • Geoff Waters

    Nice to know Ron Webb is currently still buiding tracks. I am currently researching the history of cycling tracks in Dbn, South Africa in the hopes of publication. Have found that, worldwide, tracks have a lifespan & then get demolished, usually go from new state of the art to decay (look at Fallowfield, Manchester; PaddingtonLondon,The Vigorelli, Milan-also threats to Herne Hill). Incidentally, Paris’ Vel d’Hiv has the darkest history, being used by the Nazis to house French Jews before sending them to the death camps.
    Ron Webb’s comments on current track cycling’s elitism is interesting and disappointing, esp. re. Africa. More on the shaping of entry and exit bankings of tracks please Ron. Also, how have building short six day tracks influenced longer competitive tracks? Thanks for the piece! Geoff