2016 marks the 10th year since the last season of events were held at the Eastway Cycle Circuit when the beloved cycle venue was wiped away with the holding of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Opened in June 1975 the Lee Valley Eastway Cycle Racing Circuit celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2000 and few would have doubted that it would not be standing for another 25 years. All looked safe as it sat on protected metropolitan land, but the decision by the Olympic movement to award the games to London unleashed powerful forces and money that saw homes, business’s, allotments, greenspaces and Eastway Cycle Circuit bulldozed.

Such were the high stakes that vested interests spun hard to make sure that we were all on message – I was at a meeting where we were told that Eastway Cycle Circuit was underused, derelict, unloved and basically a rubbish tip. One notable piece of propaganda was a plan sent out featuring the tarmac coloured green so as to hide that it was in fact a cycle circuit. Sadly many people who should have been supporting the circuit and fighting for a better compensation deal tried to undermine any notion that a healthy community was based at Eastway.

It was sad that the memory of those who made the circuit possible in the 1970’s such as Peter Whelan of the Whitewebbs Cycling Club and many others was lessened by a negative narrative told by officials and planners that argued that the loss of Eastway would not be missed.

Tens of thousands sports cyclists made the circuit a vibrant place to be, but this truth was the first thing to be ‘amended’  by the Olympic developers and it took the tenacity of the Eastway Users Group to first fight for a replacement venue and then to make sure it was a match for Eastway. Michael Humphreys stepped up to take the flack and to many he was a pain in the ass, thank goodness he was, and with the help of British Cycling South East Region (esp. Vic Hopkin and John Hawkridge), instead of a small circuit sandwiched next to major roads at Rammey Marsh we got the brilliant Redbridge Cycle Circuit which was funded by Olympic compensation money. Sadly, whilst every effort was made to make the long-term replacement at the new Velo Park situated next to the Olympic Velodrome something special, the desire to capitalise on the property potential of the site saw the road circuit squeezed and off road routes compromised. Although there is now a world class Velodrome, the Velo Park lacks what Eastway had – community and usability. Because of this Redbridge has continued to be able to attract cyclists and it has continued to function even when the Olympic money dried up.

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Eastway smelt of Fennel and black berry picking was a popular pastime – 2006.

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2006 Season

The magic of Eastway was that Londoners could finish work and get to a race start time by simply riding there and from central London it took less than 30 minutes. The Beastway Mountain Bike Series attracted over 200 riders (250 a few times) for our evening racing but when the series moved to Hainault (and then Redbridge) race fields were cut by 150 plus simply because so many couldn’t get there in time being a further 40 plus minutes away.

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Olympic mega-star Laura Trott in 2006 and above at Cleary’s in 2005

The circuit was set to close at the end of 2006 and I attended many of the events and below you will find links to pictures from Beastway MTB, Cyclo-Cross and road racing. I have kept the pictures as I took them on the day and I hope to give you a look and feel for what was a great, but eventually sad year for cyclists.

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The Eastway Supporters League

The ESL hosted a Thursday evening road racing league from the circuit’s opening and it was here that I made my road race debut when I entered the Elite race by mistake in the 1990’s. Pictures are from round 16 of the League held on 11th of August and won by Adam Norris.

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Daniel Kogan leads the pack up Oxo Hill – 2006.

The League’s premier team was Angliasport/Condor featuring the Bath brothers and Gary Baker, but the likes of Martin Meades of Team API, Brian Fleming and other riders, made each evening a tinderbox of action. Bradley Wiggins no stranger to racing at the circuit called Colin Bath the “King of Eastway”.

There were also many weekend races with some held to celebrate riders lost to us all such as Simon Hook, whose whole family would attend his name race. The Bill Temme Memorial was another event that further asserted the strong community that existed at Eastway.

I have also added the pictures from the very last circuit race held in October 2006.

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Gary Baker, like Colin Bath, also a King of Eastway – 2006.

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Dominic Gabbellini was a prolific winner and he always raced on the lightest Condor possible.. – 2006

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Rouleur founder Guy Andrews now of Blue Train Publishing – 2006

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Writer Matt Seaton – The Escape Artist – 2006

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A typical Eastway sprint finish in 2006

Eastway Supporters League 16
Held on Thursday evening on August 11, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Final Circuit Races
The very last day of cycle racing on the circuit Held on October 21, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Simon Hook Memorial Cat 3/4s
Held on April 11, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Simon Hook Memorial Cat E/1/2s
Held on April 11, 2006 Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Bill Temme Memorial RR
Held on April 17, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

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Beastway – See also Beastway 19 Years and Out

Mountain bike racing was a major player at Eastway with first the Revolution Series and then the Beastway series, and this is where I began my love affair with cycling.

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The final night of racing in 2001 was fancy dress….

My very first cycle race of any type was in the Revolution series and when the organisers packed it in, I and others stepped up to create the Brixton Cycles Summer MTB Series. We grew the series from 70 odd riders to 250 plus in the 19 years we ran it. It soon became known as ‘Beastway’, because it was a bit of a beast with so many riders in 14 categories racing for one hour on a summer’s evening.

Pictures are from round one of 2006, which was very wet and similar to our first ever event in 1994 and the final Beastway at Eastway for the Team Race.

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…. they scared the hell out of people when they popped up without warning.

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The first week of 2006 was wet, very wet as was the very first Beastway.

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Ian Cleverly editor of Rouleur also pictured in 2006

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Sunshine and the iconic pylon behind – 2002

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Multiple British MTB Champion Jenny Copnall was a legend at Eastway – 2002.

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Paul Douglas leads Luton CC team mate Gavin Rumbles – 2005.

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2003 Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry- 2002

 

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Another shot of Jenny, who gave the Beastway team one of her National Championship jersey’s and which hangs to this day on my wall. Here she is in week 9 as guest race starter (she jumped in once they were all away) – 2006

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Lisa Jacobs in 2005 and she went onto become a multiple Australian cross and MTB champion

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Lincoln Romain and Brixton Cycles may be based in south London but they supported Beastway for 19 years!! – 2006

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Some of you may know James Lyon as the BC road man, but he was once the 14 year old treasurer of Beastway with Andy King. 

See also Beastway 19 Years and Out

Beastway MTB Rd 1
Held on May 24, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Beastway Final – Team race
Held on August 3, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

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Cyclo-Cross

I can vividly remember watching my first cross race at Eastway – standing at the end of the start straight the riders continued on over a bank at Cleary’s and here one rider flew so high that he was at head height and then he fell to earth embedding his front forks into the mud as both wheels collapsed. He was fine, I think.

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Steve Hamblin leads out the race at Cleary’s at round one of the 2006/07 season..

The first cyclo-cross events saw the first off-road trails created, not by designers but imagined and made real by riders; this meant that they offered variety and challenge.

When Eastway closed, the trees and fauna had matured, and many animals and birds had made it their home, it was truly an oasis of nature which we disturbed from time to time. When we took our bikes away the rabbits seemed to know and their heads would pop out from almost every spot…. whilst a bird of prey or two circled above.

Pictures are from the very last two cross races held at Eastway, that year the London and South East Cyclo-Cross League held the first two events of the 2006/07 season there in tribute to the debt it owed the circuit.

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World Track and Olympic Champion Jo Rowsell rode for the LCCA at the 2005 Inter Area Championships held at Eastway in January. The London women’s team wore London Phoenix tops.

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Dan Duguid leads out the very last cross race in 2006.

London and South East Cyclo-Cross League Rd1
Held on September 23 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

London and South East Cyclo-Cross League Rd2
Held on September 30, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

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The end

As plans for the Olympic Games were presented I had been stunned to hear from the ‘big table’ that Eastway Cycle Circuit was underused, not popular and really just a rubbish tip. Of course we knew better – it was in fact a great venue that attracted large numbers of people to race/ride and to watch. Race days were something to celebrate and a real pathway for newcomers to cycling.

Eastway’s spiritual home is now the Redbridge Cycle Circuit and as long as it continues to offer accessible events for all, it hopefully has a future – by surviving the opening of the Velopark on the old Eastway site it has seemingly passed that test.

This feature is dedicated to Bill Wright and the Beastway Team, Dave Smith, ESL, London Cyclo-Cross, Lee Valley Youth CC, Stan Turner, James Cocker, Pete Whelan, Ken, Knocker and all who made Eastway great.

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Some people didn’t think much of Lord Coe in 2006.

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Pictures

Eastway Supporters League 16
Held on Thursday evening on August 11, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Final Circuit Races
The very last day of cycle racing on the circuit Held on October 21, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Simon Hook Memorial Cat 3/4s
Held on April 11, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Simon Hook Memorial Cat E/1/2s
Held on April 11, 2006 Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Bill Temme Memorial RR
Held on April 17, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Beastway MTB Rd 1
Held on May 24, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

Beastway Final – Team race
Held on August 3, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

London and South East Cyclo-Cross League Rd1
Held on September 23 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

London and South East Cyclo-Cross League Rd2
Held on September 30, 2006 at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Stratford, London – GO THERE

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Video Links (Eddy Merckx stars)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urCEM_dox2s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAYQHpHi-cA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtAxjskosNo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK6sKlFflpA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9T9_xjHP3s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkwm6m2q1HU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk9Fk_EU71Y