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Racing and training amp up at velodrome masterpiece in Colorado Springs

July 5, 2013
Friday night racing at the Colorado Springs Velodrome, men's Pro 1 2 field

Friday night racing at the Colorado Springs Velodrome, men’s Pro 1 2 field

Even without cyclists the Colorado Springs Velodrome creates a striking impression.

The track’s light gray concrete traces an oval of straight-aways leading into steeply banked turns. Its symmetry and simplicity rests against a backdrop of pine-studded Rocky Mountains and ever-changing sky.

Adding cyclists brings the pleasure of continuous racing. Male and female athletes including amateurs and professionals, newbies and champions, sweep past the spectator stands again and again with riders jumping out of the pack to pass at high speed.

Amanda Cyr leads women's field at Friday night Colorado Track Cup in Colorado Springs

Amanda Cyr leads women’s field at Friday night Colorado Track Cup in Colorado Springs

When they let go of the velodrome’s railing for a mass start and drop into the lower section of the track these cyclists roll in fixed gear silence. Then racing and rapid breathing begins. You can’t help but admire a track cyclist’s bike handling skills on a machine with the barest essentials – frame, wheels, handlebars, saddle, pedals, and a chain that snakes around a single gear.

The Front Range cycling community can enjoy all of this during Tuesday and Friday night racing as well as special events like national championships. Newly added for 2013, the Colorado Track Cup season-long points contest began on June 27th with fields including U.S. record holder Missy Erickson, cyclocross national champion Katie Compton, national champion and Olympian Colby Pearce, and road pro-cyclist Chad Haga.

A little history

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) established the Colorado Springs Velodrome, built in 1982, to help athletes prepare for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The 333 and one-third meter concrete oval banks 35 degrees maximum on the curves.

While the USOC continues to own the structure, the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado (BRAC) has contracted with Pat McDonough, Event Director at Summit Cycling Productions, to manage the venue’s programming as BRAC’s Track Coordinator. The Colorado Velodrome Association previously handled scheduling at the site, which according to McDonough is one of the highest elevation cycling stadiums in the world in continuous use. Altitude at the track is approximately 1,859 meters (6,100 feet).

High elevation and a smooth surface have delivered some extremely fast times from American and international athletes. Among other rides, Pearce set a U.S. hour record at this track in 1995. Last summer a handful of teams trained here to prepare for the 2012 Olympics. That included German Miriam Welte, McDonough said, who earned an Olympic gold medal after setting a world record in the 200 meter sprint on this track in the U.S. Grand Prix of Sprinting UCI event.

Speaking to ProVéloPassion, McDonough called Welte’s record in that short sprint very impressive. He thinks it suggests more milestones will be logged at this year’s Grand Prix – which adds endurance matches, and wouldn’t be surprised to see a new pursuit record.

“Altitude could play a big role. I’m impressed at how fast sprinters are going here,” he said, later sharing by email that sprinters are reaching 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour) on their own steam and 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour) when motor pacing.

Past events hosted at the venue as listed by McDonough include among others: over a dozen U.S. national championships, 1986 World Championships, 1991 Junior World Championships, and Para-cycling World Championships.

Increased interest and benefits

In addition to regular and special racing events, McDonough and BRAC are offering a helping hand for newcomers, a four-session “Learn the Velodrome” program. To date approximately twenty cyclists have signed on for the instruction, which is part of ramping up activity at this landmark cycling stadium.

“It’s July and people are saying that we probably have had more new riders on the track for June than we have for the last three to four years combined,” McDonough stated.

He went on to say that track techniques can benefit cyclists from road racers to mountain bikers and make “a huge difference” in race results. Many professional riders have started careers on the track or used it to build strength and skills.

Chad Haga, a rider on the Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies team who finished in the top ten overall at this year’s Tour of California, experienced his inaugural ride at this velodrome last summer after moving to Colorado Springs and raced last Friday. He began competing in the discipline several years ago.

“I enjoy the track because it’s a break from the norm. I’m a professional on the road and spend most of my time there, but track racing to me is a fun escape, a way to mix it up,” he wrote by email. “The shorter races are very high speed and the fixed gear bikes provide a unique workout…The COS track scene is pretty healthy, and as you saw Friday, there was some stiff competition that makes for great racing.”

Men's Cat 3 field led by Jim Lawrence

Men’s Cat 3 field led by Jim Lawrence

McDonough is keen on enhancing the amount of competition by increasing junior participation.

“There is so much potential in Colorado Springs we are not tapping into. One for sure is kids programs,” McDonough told ProVéloPassion. A stadium is a great venue from a parent’s perspective, he explained. They can watch their children, all the action, and the interplay between coaches and athletes, much like they do in popular youth sports like soccer and baseball. He’d love to find a grant to stock more junior bikes. The lower maintenance required for fixed gear bicycles adds to the appeal for a junior track program which he hopes to get up and running by next year.

Coordination with Erie stadium

According to the new BRAC Track Coordinator, the programing in Colorado Springs has evolved in coordination with the new Erie indoor wooden track whose opening has been delayed but is now expected for later this year. The four-session newcomer program and Track Cup competition were developed together with the Erie facility. The objective is to advance the success of both sites by collaborating instead of competing.

McDonough brings to his new BRAC role experience as a 1984 Olympic silver medalist, coach, and previous Director of the Lehigh Valley Velodrome in Trexeltown, PA.

Find a calendar of events for the Colorado Springs Velodrome on the BRAC website. The Colorado State Track Championships for senior categories will take place this weekend on July 6 and 7. Sarah Hammer is among the athletes expected to participate at the Grand Prix of Sprinting on July 12 and 13. The 2013 U.S. Collegiate National Championships are scheduled for Colorado Springs in September.

Jennifer Triplett on the front of a women's field during a Friday night race at the Colorado Springs Velodrome

Jennifer Triplett on the front of a women’s field during a Friday night race at the Colorado Springs Velodrome

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