Cleveland Velodrome Opens. Let the Racing Begin.
The Cleveland Velodrome is open. After a five-year, organized effort by the nonprofit Fast Track Cycling, the 166 meter, banked wooden oval has a schedule of riding hours, with “track 101” instructional sessions filling up fast with new riders. The first ever state track cycling championship to be held on a velodrome in Ohio will happen September 15, 2012. The track was designed by velodrome entrepreneur Dale Hughes, and built by volunteers.
Referring to the new bike handling skills cyclists who use the track will learn, and the added dimension of racing styles that will be new to the vast majority of Cleveland cyclists, Fast Track trustee, John Bodell predicted, “This is going to redefine competitive cycling in Northeast Ohio.”
For a group of volunteers to have raised the funds and built such a major piece of sports infrastructure must rank as one of the great grassroots contributions to recreation and athleticism in Cleveland.
That would be true even if the track weren't built in one of the most foreclosure-ravaged cities in the U.S., and even if it werent one of just 27 velodromes in the country. The final piece of construction required for the velodrome's occupancy permit was an observation deck built by volunteers the week before the opening.
Already, Case Western Reserve University's cycling team has plans to train there. Fast Track board president Brett Davis says that team is the seed of a program of intercollegiate competition Fast Track plans to build, along with USA Cycling competition and youth programs.
The opening celebration August 30th was an emotional event for a lot of Cleveland cyclists, but maybe none more than Davis--who didn't want to take the microphone during the speeches. He delegated the role of emcee to his fellow trustee, Matt Litzler. Davis spoke just long enough to thank his wife and family for their support while he dedicated long hours to meetings, fund raising, and ultimately the construction itself.
As Litzler said, Davis was spending so much time at the track, he even slept there.
Of course he had a lot of help. As Litzler told the crowd, more than 120 volunteers – including some that came from other cities and states – volunteered their time in hands-on work to make the velodrome a reality. Litzler also recognized Anna Gerodette, Fast Track's first executive director, who secured a Civic Innovation Lab grant and got the velodrome rolling in 2007. Gerodette has since moved back to the West Coast.
Slavic Village councilman Anthony Brancatelli was among the city officials present for the festivities. “This isn't just great for Slavic Village or the City of Cleveland, or even Cuyahoga County,” Brancatelli said. “This is great for the state of Ohio.”
Even with the opening of the track near the end of the racing season, a schedule of competitive events has begun to come together. To prepare for it, the track will host a USA Cycling Referee clinic from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, September 14.
Fast Track partnered with the Pista Elite cycling club to host the Ohio State Track Cycling Championship the following day. Events include 500 meter and 1 Kilometer Time Trial, flying 200 meters, individual pursuit, team pursuit, and team sprint. All events are covered by one entry fee $15 for riders age 16 and under, and $30 for everyone else. A USA Cycling license is required. Go to clevelandvelodrome.org for details.
One week later, on Saturday, Sept. 22, Cleveland will host international competition among riders from three cities that have velodromes: The Cleveland-Detroit-London challenge, featuring riders from Cleveland, Detroit, and London, Ontario.
Davis says the track's Thursday evening racing series will probably start in October.
In the mean time, a schedule of open riding, track 101 sessions, volunteer needs, and other information is available at clevelandvelodrome.org.