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Thursday, February 29

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Cycling Tue Aug 23 2011

Interim Velodrome Track Opens For Business


Three racers compete in a scratch race at Sunday's event / Photo: Eleanor Blick

The outdoor interim track at Chicago Velo Campus held its first races Sunday, and many curious cyclists and neighbors alike made their way through to watch. Racers competed in track-specific races like the scratch and the miss-and-out, and set the first track records in solo timed events.

For some racers the excitement surrounding the casual, fun day of racing meant something more: Sunday's event marked the first Velodrome races held in the city of Chicago in 65 years.

The outdoor track at 86th Street and Burley Avenue was erected as a precursor to a larger planned facility, to be built on a portion of the former U.S. Steel South Works site. The full Chicago Velo Campus plans to include an indoor Velodrome, mountain bike and cyclocross tracks and several other Olympic-level training facilities. The project, led by Chicago Velo Campus President and local racer Emanuele Bianchi, is slated to open in 2014.

In the meantime, local racers are ecstatic about the new outdoor track. Volunteers built it by hand in just 35 days and the materials are designed to withstand winter elements, so the track can remain standing for a few years.

Bianchi has bike rental programs and youth cycling programs in the works -- a full fleet of Felt bicycles arrived at the Chicago Velo Campus offices on Monday.

Unlike other area Velodromes, this track is very short and steep -- 166 meters with a 50-degree banking. For riders used to the sweeping turns at Kenosha or long straightaways at Northbrook, riding this track involves a different technique.

Jeff Perkins of the Chicago Cuttin' Crew races regularly at both the Kenosha and Northbrook Velodromes and has raced on tracks around the country. Perkins said riders who are more familiar with the Chicago Velo Campus track would have an advantage in the races.

"Things are governed well ahead of where you are," Perkins said, because there isn't much time for tactics or rest. Many riders commented on how involved the upper body is compared to other tracks and how exhausting the races were, even though the track is so much shorter than what they're used to.

"I have yet to capitalize on drafting," Perkins joked, saying it is difficult to control yourself to stay in the sprinter's lane -- or near the black line on the track -- due to the gravitational forces involved.

Because of the differences in the track, every rider must complete a two-hour certification class with track manager Peter Wilcock before training or racing. The $10 class is offered twice a day, 5-6 days a week. Session times are posted regularly on the Chicago Velo Campus Facebook page.

As for future events, Wilcock said they are working to start putting on USA Cycling-sanctioned events very soon. Collegiate races will be held at the track on September 10 and 11, and he is hoping to get an event going with riders from Chicago and Detroit for September 3. And judging by the success of Sunday's races, Wilcock said more fun race dates will be planned very soon.

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Jeremy / August 29, 2011 7:46 AM

50-degree banking

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