OLYMPIC champion Callum Skinner today made an impassioned plea for the return of bikes he learned to track ride on after they were stolen from a Capital club.
Thieves forced their way into a lock-up at Meadowbank velodrome taking nine specialist bikes worth about £4,500.
One has since been found abandoned in a nearby garden and Bruntsfield-raised Callum has appealed for help in tracing the others.
“I’d ask anyone who knows where they are to contact police or the club. These bikes don’t have any value to the man in the street,” said Callum, 24.
“They’re very specialist and not something that is easily sold on – it’s a real shame that they’ve gone missing.”
Six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy retweeted an appeal for help in finding the bikes belonging to Meadowbank-based Edinburgh RC Cycling Club.
“There are a bank of these bikes there for the community if you don’t have a track bike,” said Skinner.
“A lot of kids who come through the ranks get one of these blue Donoghues for a while before they get their own.
“You can be talking £800 for a bike so these bikes are for kids to try the sport and see if it’s for them before they make that commitment.
“It’s important that cycling is accessible and these bikes being stolen makes it harder for more kids to get involved.”
Former James Gillespie’s High School student Skinner credits those early rides on the bikes at Meadowbank for setting him on the road to glory that ultimately led to Olympic gold.
He said: “It started out there for me and the facilities there. I wouldn’t have got into track cycling if I hadn’t moved to Edinburgh and gone down to Meadowbank.”
Skinner won the team sprint gold and individual sprint silver at last year’s Rio games.
He believes one of the bikes stolen is likely to be the one he first took to the track on for a few months when introduced to the sport at Meadowbank about ten years ago.
ERC coach Phil Darby said the theft had thrown the season’s start next month into uncertainty and threatened vital income for the club.
“We’ll have to cancel sessions if we don’t get the bikes back to get replacements,” said Phil, 60.
“It’ll have a big impact on our operations, particularly adult sessions. We charge for taster sessions which make the whole thing viable.”
But most troubling is the impact on the 550-strong club’s work in introducing youngsters to the sport.
The club has 100 under-18 riders and four reigning national youth champions on its books.
“We’re trying to get the next generation of people having fun on bikes,” said Phil. “There can only be one Olympic champion but everybody can have a go.”
Nine of the Donoghue track bikes, with no brakes or gears, were taken – seven blue and one orange remain missing.
A Police spokeswoman said: “The incident is believed to have happened at about 2pm on Saturday, March 25, when nine bikes were taken from a shed at the stadium.”