–By Luke Cavender, Team OAM NOW cyclist
I want to write to you guys about the Velodrome at Bloomer Park and how we would like to get more riders – especially from Team OAM Now – out to the track. Because I’m new to the team, you might not know that I’ve been racing the track for many years now. It has taken me places I never thought I would go, like Elite/Pro Nationals, Olympic trials, and the Olympic Training Center just to name a few. Track cycling boosted my riding ability much faster than just training on the road or the trails. Yes, you still need to get your endurance training done, but track cycling improves your power, speed, and bike handling skills tenfold.
If you’re not familiar with a velodrome, it is a banked bike racing track that varies in length. The one we are blessed to have in Michigan is 200 meters with 44 degree banking in the corners. That’s 200 meters of pure fun and excitement. If you like rollercoasters, the track will definitely interest you! There are many races done on the track: scratch race, points race, Madison, elimination race, match sprints, and time trials. Each race has its own different thrill and unique flavor.
The velodrome will improve your bike handling skills because it essentially makes you “one” with your bike. Since track bikes do not have brakes and only run one gear, you learn to look up ahead of the riders in front of you (so you’re not staring down at the wheel in front of you) in order to anticipate what is coming your way. A key factor in competitive and recreational cycling is being able to control your bike in a group or around a corner. The velodrome helps you get used to riding in a pack in a controlled environment without the worry of passing cars. When you get comfortable riding in a pace line on the track, you can ride a pace line anywhere. On the road, you either do one race a night/weekend, but on the track, you’re able to do 5-6 races in one session. Those extra races alone, though they are shorter, allow you to quickly gain experience riding in a pack at speed. The more reps you can do, the better. Along with gaining experience in a pack, you learn race tactics at an accelerated level, like how to get to the front, finish a race during a sprint, and how to establish a breakaway. The track is a great training tool to refine your skills so you become a better all-around rider.
There are many ways to gain power, speed, and endurance; everyone has their own methods to do so. As I mentioned earlier, since we do 5-6 races a night, it allows you to work on these things. The more times you try to chase down a break and finish a race, you will gain more top-end speed and the power needed to get to that speed.
Last Friday night on the boards was a great one for me. Race #2 was a continuation of our season-long scratch race series; I won the race, and now I’m sitting in first overall for the series. This race started out pretty fast, with everyone trying to ride at the front. With about 5 laps to go, the field sat up and no one breaking away until Paul Hertzler, from Wolverine Sports Club, put in a great move and gained about half a track on the field because we were too busy looking at each other. Mike Dega from Team O2 put the throttle down and made it about halfway to Paul with me on his wheel. Coming into the bell lap, I made my move around Mike to overtake Paul on the back stretch for a comfortable win. The next race – elimination – I redeemed myself from a poor 5th place finish the week before. It came down to a final match sprint between myself and Nick Laughton of Team O2 after bettering the rest of the competition. With 2 to go, we were looking at each other. He had the front position on me and made a nice move to pick up speed with one and a half laps to go. We hit the front straightaway with one to go, and the sprint was on. I was able to ride up next to him on the back stretch, but he had one last little kick and edged me out at the finish line. We’re now tied for first in the overall elimination race series.
Lastly, the feature race of the night and my favorite – the Madison. That night there was no glory, it was all for fun. I was paired up with CJ Karas from Marian University and we had a pretty decent race. The Madison is a bit different from other track races because it is a two person team race. When the rider in the race comes around to the rider on relief, he or she reaches up and grabs the hand of their teammate and throws them into the race. It’s generally ran like a points race with multiple sprints along the way, and the team with most points or laps on the field wins the race. The first two sprints saw us taking third and second, respectively. Coming into the final sprint, knowing we had to win the sprint to win the race, I timed an attack and throw CJ in with a nice lead. She was able to maintain the gap for the victory.
I hope that after reading this tidbit on track cycling, a few of you will come out and try the velodrome. It’s also a great spectator sport to see exactly what it’s all about before trying it yourself. The races are held every Friday night at 7:30pm all summer long – we even have a live band that plays while we race. There are plenty of new rider classes, even if you’re not new to a bike. If you don’t have a track bike, they have bikes for you to use. You just need to bring your shoes, helmet, and eagerness to ride. After a few classes, you’ll be ready to start racing and winning in no time. Get in contact with me (luke.cavender.racing@gmail.
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