Television doesn’t do track racing justice, but it’s possible to get hooked as a live spectator. Just lean against the balustrade in turns one or three when there’s a long pace line warming up before a race. The lead rider, instead of following the curve, goes straight up the banking at the turn, floats a moment at the top, and dives back to the bottom perfectly placed at the end of the line, all in the space of 30 meters or less. Or stand outside a wooden track next to its superstructure during the sprint lap of a points race or Madison. It’s something like standing next to the Gemini when both coasters go by–minus the screaming passengers. Better still, if you’re able to beg, borrow, or buy a track bike, all it will take is one time around. But you won’t stop there, just rolling along the bottom. No, the lure of the higher realm is much too great a force to resist. At the top of a steep track the transitions are intense, a mini-roller every 100 meters. Once you feel comfortable in the transitions, you’ll wind it up there at the top and take a flyer from the peak of turn two, aiming for the bottom of the track in turn three. Try and hold it in the sprinter’s lane going around; the G’s push you up the track. Now you’re hooked.
The Velodrome Non-Profit Corporation reports at its website that the Mike Walden Velodrome in Rochester Hills is scheduled to open 3 June 2001.The velodrome directors include Frankie Andreu, David Young, and Dale Hughes. The track itself is being prefabricated by the same company that built the EDS Superdrome of Plano, Texas and the Stone Mountain Velodrome used in the Atlanta Olympics and is being assembled with volunteer help. It will be 200 meters around at the measurement line and 6 meters wide with 12 degree banking in the straightaways and 45 degree banking in the corners. The surface will be a wood/resin composite with a steel undercarriage supported by over 300 concrete footings. The manufacturer rates this surface as having a 10 year "premium" outdoor life span. The velodrome is scheduled to be open daily during daylight hours. User fees will cover costs like insurance and general maintenance.
Forty-five degrees is steep. Major Taylor in Indianapolis, which is 333 meters around, has 28 degree banking in the corners. Kenosha, Wisconsin and Northbrook, Illinois are slightly smaller and both less steep. The old Dorias track up in Detroit was about 28 degrees before it crumbled, and Dale Hughes’s old plywood portable track had 48 degree corners. Knowing these angles, the new drome’s directors and their Walden/Wolverine persuasion, it’s safe to say that there will be some sort of required orientation for neophytes–say those who are less than a cat 4 or 3 on the track. And, I bet, track bikes will be mandatory.
I thought that I’d put this ditty out while everybody’s 2001 cycling budget is still in the planning stage, knowing some of you hard-cores out there are assured of finding yet another ultimate cycling rush on the track. Especially this track; it’s steep and state-of-the-art. It’s making me feel a bit born-too-late, reliving all of those 462-mile round-trip Friday night trips to Indy, but don’t ask me to sell. No, I’m dusting off my trusty Bianchi Pista, going over my wheels, cogs, and chain rings.