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Grass track velodromes
Last Post 07/30/2019 09:51 PM by Dale Dale. 3 Replies.
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07/30/2019 01:15 PM

Just read about the Laurence Velodrome in Laurence. Kansas, a mowed oval in prairie grass.  This after spending the weekend watching track racing in a rather crude concrete velodrome on what used to be dairy land.   The venues are quite different.  But it is all about racing.  Racing at all ages and all abilities.  Racing that is completely accessible to kids, both to watch and to do.  (At Alpenrose, there were 3 generations of one family.  Mom/grandmom watching and her son and his daughter racing.  Track manager's step dad sponsors a team and works the events (timers and timing strips, lap cards, bell, etc.)  She rode pace for the kiddie's race.  (They got a near national's champ sprinter for that pace!)

I hope grass tracks take off.  They have been popular on England forever.  I met an older Englishman 35 years ago who raced the grass when he was a young man.  Handicap racing.  He was good and a player.  Could finesse the edge between being fast enough to win but not by so much he added more handicap.  Judges watched for slack chains.  If they saw it, you were dsq'ed and your handicap bumped.

I'm guessing handicapping won't take off here.  Way too Brit of a concept.  But just the regular track events, raced on a surface more like gravel could be just what the doctor ordered (for this rather sick patient we call bike racing in America).  As the article points out, it is cheap.  Get a farmer to spare enough hay field for a 330m oval for 3 months.  That's what? 2 of those big rolls of hay?  Not hard to do in nearly all of our states.   And the potential?  Aston Lambie was intrigued by the idea of trying out his gravel skills on the grass.  Thrived.  And went on to set a world pursuit record.

Back to the parallels I see between the track here and the potential grass tracks.  Locally run with an emphasis on good, fun racing.  The Alpenrose Challenge is loosely run.  A full schedule of races but very flexible based on riders present.  Races get canceled and races get added.  Number of laps?  How's everybody feeling?  Fun, very informal races for kids.  (There were three kids from a track racing family, two girls and the youngest a boy, all with racing experience and a boy with track experience but this was his first race.  MC had him take the rail at mid straight and had the family line up well behind him, spaced well apart by age.  Gave the newcomer a head start.  Well he was fast and won by a good margin.  Won't get that again!  But he will be back to race.

Home grown racing.  Here it is OBRA.  I love it.  The events are fun, both for the racers and the fans.  Families are encouraged.  Kids are encouraged.  Lots of free thinking.  (Alpenrose has teamed up with Marymoore in Seattle for a prize for the overall over two weekends, their big annual event, then ours.  Alpenrose cleaned up.  Those northerners gotta get their stuff together!  Next year, British Columbia will probably be added.  Another prize went to the winner of another (pulled out of a hat) title, I forget the name but basically a global omnium,  As I recall, it was a gravel race the previous Sunday, Tuesday's race at PIR, the local car road course, Wednesday the road race up Mt Tabor and the Challenge.  Gravel, crit, hills, track.  This is all good healthy fun.  And far, far from (what I think of as "stiff upper lip") US Cycling and UCI.

I hope grass takes off.  (Even better if someone could do a grass/dirt track accessible to inner city kids.  Find a sponsor who can fund a fleet of cheap Fuji track bikes.  We probably have a thousand Nelson Vails but until they find a race, we will never know.)

And an out of the blue thought - to keep everything accessible and since there are no rules that this point; suppose the rule was that all bikes had to be metal and weight least 20 pounds.  No fancy gear needed.  Minimal bike damage in crashes.  $600 gets anybody in the game with competitive equipment.  The local store owner can sponsor that black kid with a bike.  Just dreaming.  But I see grass roots, literal or otherwise as where racing needs to come from.



07/30/2019 02:46 PM
Unbanked grass track racing was very common in England for many years. I did some here in the US in my youth. Speeds are fairly low. Emphasizes power over other skills.


07/30/2019 03:08 PM
VeloNews just followed that article with one on inner city mountain bike racing.



07/30/2019 09:51 PM
Way cool. I know both the guys who did the grass velodrome, good people that give to the community.
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