Thursday May 18th was the Track opener here in Minnesota. Every Thursday for the next four months there will be six full fields of fast paced racing.
Track racing is unsuspecting entry point for bike racing, track bikes are cheap to start, easy to maintain, racing is straight forward and very educational. Here in MN we have full women's and men's fields which was far from the case six years ago when a handful of people showed up and no one watching in the stands.
The track director has a brief meeting with racers regarding safety in the large race fields.
Thursday night the infield was busy with racers preparing for the night. Despite the chilly temps that got down to the mid 40s and the threat of rain, the race fields were near capacity and spectators were plenty, considering. Starting at 5:30 racers arrived to warm up, sign the season's race waiver, pay the entry fee and pick up their race numbers. Racing started at 7pm and continued until the sunset gave way to a star filled sky. With three women's fields and three men's with three races each there was a plethora of events from Points races to chariots. Countless opportunities for glory.
Spectators enjoy a moment of sun as racers zoom by.
Looking at the track today its hard to imagine that they almost lost it a few seasons ago. The NSC in an attempt to add another soccer field did an audit on the track, deeming it unsafe for riding and quietly closing the track. In an uproar the riders banded together and got a second opinion, The track could be repaired but it would cost them. The bill for the repair would be around $100,000 and with the state budget cycle years away it was up to the riders to raise awareness and funds. After much work the Friends of Velodrome Racing in Minnesota helped to raise the funds and construction started in the early spring and finished just before opening night of the 2015 season.
Racer prepares to ride next to the looming 45º wall of wood that is the velodrome.
The Velodrome here was built in the 1990's as part of the National Sports Center complex. Minnesota Governor at the time Rudy Perpich funded the complex in order to attract competitors for the 1994 Olympics. Initially, the track was supposed to last a hand full of years before being demolished. Having an outdoor wooden track exposed to the harsh winters is not the best idea. Twenty-seven years later the structure is still holding but not for long. The track is scheduled to shut down for good at the end of the 2019 season when the track will need a complete overhaul to remain functional. All hope is not lost though, The Minnesota Cycling Center is planning on building a new track complex in North East Minneapolis to replace the NSC Velodrome.
Peter O. Leads the Cat 1/2 sixty lap scratch race.
Opening night was a success, everyone is eager for the upcoming season. Tiana Johnson racing for Team Zubaz dominated the Women's 1/2 field while Jordan Cullen on Borah Factory Racing dominated the 1/2 men's field both winning the Omnium.
The results board fills quickly.