I was lucky enough to attend the Friday evening session of the Track Cycling World Cup, the official "test"event for the brand new London Olympic Velodrome. And what a night it was!
Two gold medals, one bronze, and two new world records for Team GB had the capacity crowd on their feet time and time again. Spirits were high and riders from all round the world were made to feel welcome, but when a home athlete was on the track you could hear the roar of approval from the crowd keeping pace with the rider as they span round and around.
Six time world champion Gregory Bauge warms up for France
Jess Varnish can't quite believe what she has done after setting a new world record and grabbing the gold with team mate Victoria Pendleton in the Team Sprint finals.
The crowd leap to their feet to celebrate the ladies' success.
The biggest cheer of the night belonged to Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish in the Team Sprint finals who snatched Gold and a new world record from the Australians. There's no doubt that the new track is fast, and the electric atmosphere was ramped up to thermonuclear when the ladies secured their victory. The graceful, sweeping roof of "the Pringle" velodrome was literally raised by the roaring, stomping crowd, who were on their feet again just a few moments later for Great Britain's Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell who hammered out their own Gold medal and world record in the Team Pursuit final.
(A) Sir Chris Hoy warms up on the rollers. Big thighs (but not as big as his German opponents) (B) Edgar, Kenny and Hoy in the starting blocks (C) Bronze for the British boys behind France (2nd) and Germany (1st), to the left (Look at the size of Robert Forstemann's thighs! That's just ridiculous!)
Great Britain's men had a less successful night, although there was a Bronze medal for Ross Edgar, Jason Kenny and a slightly slimmed down looking Sir Chris Hoy in a closely contested Team Sprint (Kenny, by comparison, looks bigger than ever and in the form of his life) . Ben Swift showed a cracking combination of determination and tactics in the Elimination "devil" in the Omnium, being in the last three left on the track when all other competitors had been picked off. Swift was in the last race of the night which was a surprise crowd pleaser, keeping us all on the edge of our seats as the riders were eliminated one by one.
New Zealand's Simon Van Velthooven rode the best tactical race of the night, climbing one bike at a time from 10th place at the start to a solid 3rd at the finish line in the Men's 1000m time trial. The new velodrome really lends itself to these big races with lots of participants; unusually the spectator seats go all the way around the track, including at the highest points of the banking, and are incredibly close to the action - for those in the front seating blocks you can actually hear the riders shouting and gnashing their teeth at each other as they pick their way through the pack.
Even the highest seats furthest away from the track are offered a superb birds eye view of all of the action, and can look down on the finish line for a close up on those all important on-the-line finishes.
A special cheer went out to Uganda's Patrick Lawino, above. The only track cycling representative of the small African country, and who trains just up the road with Hackney CC, he came in a good 20 seconds behind his ferocious Chinese opponent in the time trial. I don't think that's a bad achievement for a man who'd never competed on the track in front of a crowd before and he still had a smile on his face and looked immensely proud just to take part and be in the middle of the action. Sure, he might not have been as slick as some of the more seasoned professionals, and his kit might not have shone as brightly as those who are showered with corporate sponsorship, but who knows what effect this might have in his home country? We all need local heroes to look up to, after all.
With 48 countries and 17 trade teams represented over the three days of action at the Velodrome, the World Cup gives us just a taste of what this summer's forthcoming Olympics are going to be like. Those who have got tickets to the track during the Games have their hands on their own little piece of Gold - they've big shoes to fill after the crowd last night helped give Team GB the home advantage as they were barraged, bawled and bellowed over the finish line.
Bring on the Olympics!