IT WAS once Wales’ premier athletics track and helped to launch the career of Tour De France winner Geraint Thomas, but a historic velodrome is set to be lost as part of a school expansion.

The grandstand at Maindy Stadium, which provided cover for 5,000 people, has long disappeared as have the days when up to 20,000 fans would gather for sporting events, from baseball to boxing.

The stadium is where Olympian Colin Jackson first trained for the hurdles and in 1969, Geoff Capes, who later found fame as the world’s strongest man, helped deny Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club an inaugural British Athletics League title at their home track in the club’s debut season.

A place in world sporting history was sealed in November 1967 when Bridgend runner Lynn Hughes - racing alongside twin brother Eric – became the first to break the four-hour barrier for running 40 miles (64km) on a track.

His winning time of three hours 48 minutes and 53 seconds works out on average as five minutes 43 seconds for every mile.

World War II delayed plans to develop the cycling and athletics track, on the land which was gifted by Lord Bute on condition it be used recreation, and by 1951 the stadium opened with city officials hopeful of hosting the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

The event came to Cardiff in 1958, with Maindy hosting cycling but the showpiece athletics events were held at the Cardiff Arms Park National Stadium, with the track then transferred to Maindy which was the capital’s main athletics venue until a purpose-built stadium was opened in 1989.

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Though the venue’s days of hosting athletics and elite sport have passed, the cycling track is still in use for training and competition.

But under plans drawn up by Cardiff council, the track and its concrete banks are to be bulldozed as the area is redeveloped to accommodate the expansion of the neighbouring Cathays High School even though no buildings will be constructed on the site of the track, a former clay pit and deep pool that was filled with household refuse during the early 1920s.

Cyclist Anthony Warland, who has collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to save the velodrome, lives nearby and as well as training at the site with Cardiff Social Cycling Club, walks along the former terraces which are now grassy banks.

“I use the track quite regularly for cycling and walking around and I’m quite upset at the idea of the track being demolished. It’s simply unnecessary and it’s got such historic importance,” said the postgraduate student.

The National Wales: PA File Photo of Geraint Thomas. See PA Feature TOPICAL Wellbeing Thomas. Picture credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Photos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TOPICAL Wellbeing Thomas..

The new school buildings, which will be in addition to the existing school on the opposite side of the road from the sports arena, are likely to be built on disused bowling greens, since concreted over for a car park, and part of the site currently used for informal recreation.

Detailed plans have yet to be drawn up, and the council has said it is committed to retaining open access green space, but it confirmed at an online public consultation meeting, held on March 16, that it is unable to build on the site of the track.

A leisure centre, which includes a swimming pool, will also be retained but a BMX biking area could be relocated to another part of the site when it is redeveloped.

Minutes from the meeting show the council’s schools organisation programme director, Richard Portas, stated: “Not able to build on the cycle track area as that ground won’t be suitable. The building would largely be on the Maindy Centre site.”

A map produced by the council shows around one third of the track area will be retained as open space with the rest part of the land allocated to the school.

The council is also committed to not demolishing the Maindy track until a replacement, outdoor, velodrome is constructed at the International Sports Village.

The Maindy Flyers Cycling Club, which a 10-year-old Geraint Thomas joined after spotting a training session after he’d been swimming at the adjacent pool, is supportive of the council’s plan but other cycling clubs have raised concerns.

Whitchurch Cycling Club says it supports a new track but it should be in addition to the existing facility.

Anthony said the Maindy track is more centrally located than the sports village site and as Maindy is a larger 460m track, it has shallower banks, making it more suitable for riders of all abilities, than the proposed smaller 330m track which will have steeper banks.

The council says it has consulted cycling clubs and governing bodies on the design of a new velodrome.

The petition to save Maindy velodrome can be found by clicking here.

A consultation on the school expansion closes on July 26.

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