Riders take first laps on Velodrome; finishing touches underway
Volunteers hold rider Gary Burkholder steady at the start of a test lap
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As Great Lakes Courier went to press, the Cleveland Velodrome was ridable, but not quite finished.
Just two people had pedaled full laps around the new, 166-meter, plywood track, their speed keeping them upright around the steeply banked turns. The first two were Fast Track Cycling Board President Brett Davis, and his fellow trustee Gary Burkholder, both experienced racers. The plywood surface rumbled as they rolled over it, like a wave of sound making its way around a stadium. When all the screws are in, the rumble will be more of a whisper.
Davis says it'll be just a week or two before cyclists can learn to ride the track, and learn from track builder Dale Hughes how to teach others. But it's not yet ready for the public.
Construction was held up late in May by a stop-work order, issued by the City of Cleveland. The City had questions about whether the track would need a foundation. Tuestions were resolved, and the order lifted in June, allowing Davis, Burkholder, and the crew of volunteers got back to work. But the delay set the schedule back. Davis said he's now aiming to celebrate the track's opening Friday, July 20 with an open house, formal program, and demonstrations organized by veteran track racer and coach Tony Smith.
Once the track is open to the public and has trained riders, Fast Track will begin a weekly racing series, and a schedule of riding, training, and teaching sessions for people who want to learn. Davis says other events are in the works, too. Barberton Ohio native Beth Newell—a national track cycling champion last year—will ride the track and offer a demo and training session while she's in Ohio the first weekend in August for the MS Pedal to the Point ride. August should also bring to Slavic Village the first state track cycling championship to be held in Ohio on a velodrome. Dates and times for those plans have yet to be solidified.
And in the hot first week of July, several finishing touches were yet to come. For example, the apron—a plywood ring around the inside of the track , to give the slightly elevated oval a smooth transition to the pavement of the infield—was about 1/5 complete.
There's a safety fence to be installed around the perimeter of the track, so that if someone crashes, they won't fly off the outside of a curve. Burkholder says the fence also provides an opportunity to sell advertising space and acknowledge sponsors.
The finished velodrome will also have an observation platform, with an accessibility ramp so a small number of spectators can watch the racing. In June, volunteers and curious onlookers watched Burkholder and Davis from perches on scaffolding and step ladders.
Brett Davis says the observation deck and accessibility ramp have to be complete before the opening celebration. It wouldn't do to open a new, first-in-Ohio athletic facility with Cleveland dignitaries taking turns on a step ladder to watch the riders go by.