Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sacramento Valley Velodrome

Well the inevitable question of who what how and why will this not be another failed attempt at bringing velodrome racing to Sacramento. This may be a bit long winded for the TweetyMyFace crowd, but hang in there and I will get to the point….eventually.

In 2003 I started riding one of those goofy fixed gear bikes that the messenger kids were riding because they are simple to maintain, easy to lock up at the local watering hole, and old school race culture says you should ride your first 1000k of the off season on a track bike with an easy gear to develop a supple spin. A couple years later Mary Maroon was all jazzed up about track racing at Hellyer Park and started talking about building a track in Sacramento. I figured if we were gonna do this I better get a race bike and make a trip or two down to San Jose to check it out. I went to my first beginners session during the winter of 2006-2007. One taste and I was hooked. A few sessions later I got my wife-to-be hooked too and we started going to as many beginners’ races as we could.

It wasn’t long before we started hearing about these big money races called omniums or velodrome challenges. These are events with $10-20,000 in prize money. Several events are run over the course of two to three days with racers going for individual prizes as well as prizes for the overall most consistent results throughout the entire weekend. There are usually three to four of these on the west coast during the summer. It’s pretty much the same core group that travels to and compete in these events. Having a background in music and having done five national tours that sounded like my kind of circus. The problem is, or was, to ride in these races you are required to be ranked as a top level amateur or professional track rider. So, we set about racing and training to get our upgrades so we could make the scene. And make the scene we did.

Fast forward two years to our preparation for the big races of 2009. The group that runs the big race at Hellyer, The American Velodrome Challenge, holds a spring series called Get Ready for Summer. Of course we jumped at the opportunity to go on sunny spring days to get ready for summer racing. We had a blast doing the series, raced the big event, then went up to Portland for the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge. I was in an arena with raging warriors half my age…wildly passionate athletes, men AND women, who care for little more than having fun, chasing prizes, and getting to the next big race. It was sometime during that week that something clicked. I vividly remember saying to myself “this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

I immediately started talking to anyone and everyone that would listen about track racing and building a velodrome in the Sacramento area, all the while going about the business of preparing specifically for the 2010 track racing season. Spring finally comes, and again we are thankful to Rick Adams, Kevin Worley, and Matt Martinez for giving us the opportunity to get ready to race the big show. We planned to expand our summer tour up to Redmond, Washington for the FSA Grand Prix. Sometime during the keirin heats at the 2010 American Velodrome Challenge the other light came on. Those sneaky devils! The Get Ready for Summer races are as much, if not more, an opportunity for these guys to fine tune their act as much as it is a chance for us to get some much needed track time. This got me to thinking about how much work goes into running a successful velodrome program. It became immediately and alarmingly apparent that building a track is the easy part. What makes the tracks we’ve raced special are the people and their programs.

During this four year run we took advantage of most of the programs available at Hellyer on our way to qualify to race at the highest level. Since this entry is already long winded I may as well list as many as I can. To ride the track everyone is required to attend three orientation sessions. These sessions are held year round, weather permitting. There is usually a rotation of five coaches that run these sessions. The track maintains a fleet of rental bikes for folks that want to give it a try before investing in a track bike. There are low key races run on Tuesday and Wednesday nights from April through September where new racers can earn upgrade points to race the bigger events as well as a chance for the fast guys and gals to get some mid week intensity. Riders of all levels, and this is what makes it socially satisfying, are mixed together in the infield and take turns racing in self seeded A.B, or C divisions. You have junior boys and girls, rank beginners, seasoned messengers, awkward roadies, and grizzled pros all mixed together and egging each other on. Then there is the Friday night series. These are higher category races that draw more spectators and are sponsored by local clubs that bring refreshments and volunteers to help out. These races have 4-5 referees where as the low key racing usually has only one or two which includes the promoter. Two times a week there are junior only sessions run by parents and a few veteran racers. One group is for the little 10-13 year olds, and the other is for the bigger faster kids. There are also a half dozen training sessions throughout the week that are run by track supervisors that may also include a motorcycle pacer to keep the speed high. Then there are a series of match sprint racer where the big and burly boys and girls race each other, one on one, over short distances. And last but not least there is the Velodrome Challenge, and Masters and Elite State Championships. Oh, and let’s not forget the annual ladies camp run by Beth Newell and Annabel Holland which is focused on getting more women racers involved with track racing. The glue that holds it all together is a non-profit corporation with a 10-12 member board of directors. Whew! I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.

So the best scenario is to have a healthy non-profit association that runs our racing and programs, a municipal property run and policed by the parks commission, and a constant and varied in flux of private funding and sponsorship. We have written and filed Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. From there we will get a tax id and open a bank account. We have secured seed money to launch our website, seek the advice of lawyers and accountants, and file for non-profit status with the IRS. We are working on getting a small fleet of junior bikes so we can start recruiting kids, get them comfortable riding fixed gear bikes, and take them on field trips down to Hellyer to meet and ride with kids their age on a real track. I built my roller racing rig so we can start promoting races while raising awareness and more seed money. We also have plans to run a summer twilight series where we will do match sprints, chariot races, and time trials on fixed gear bikes. We have been talking to Kevin McCarty, planning staff and planning commissioners and have scheduled a meeting at City Hall with my old high school mate Kevin Johnson. If the city is not willing to play nice or makes things too difficult we have plan B to build on private land a few miles south of Sacramento.

My personal qualifications include being a USA Cycling Level II coach in good standing for five years which includes 3 separate weeks of training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs I've been a shop bike mechanic for eight years. I’ve ridden and raced many styles of cycling that include year around commuting (in 2008 I won the second highest individual miles award for May is Bike Month), freestyle street BMX, several double centuries including a California Triple Crown, completing the Death Ride, winning Eppie’s Great Race, competing in over a hundred road races and criteriums, competing in close to a hundred track races, and participating in local race and club rides. The more I talk about building this velodrome, the more folks are looking to me for direction. I have managed to infiltrate the American track racing scene from the infield. I’m friends with the promoters and associations that run the big West Coast races. I have a good relationship with the Hellyer crew and can turn to them for mentorship. I am friends with several past and current national and world champion trackies. I have earned the respect and mutual admiration of my peers. I am willing to build this grassroots association one relationship at a time until we have so much momentum that the actual construction of our track becomes inevitable. This is where all other attempts have failed. They failed to recognize that a movement is made not of concrete, wood and steel, but of people that are unafraid to dream. Come to the Hot Italian and watch or race. Share in the good times, great food and camaraderie. And see if you don’t come away with an insatiable itch for more.

I will close with the mission statement from our Articles of Incorporation:

This corporation is a nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation and is not organized for the private gain of any person. It is organized under the Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law for charitable purposes.

B. The specific purpose of this corporation is to develop and operate a velodrome for the use and benefit of the communities in the greater Sacramento region.

Charitable and educational programs will include:
a)bicycling safety and education, with an emphasis on junior development
b)the promotion of healthy lifestyles and fitness
c)the promotion of local, regional, and national sporting events


Anonymous said...


Very nice to see another effort to build a world-class velodrome in the Sacramento area. I was a regular during the 1980s at Northbrook (Il.), Washington Park (Kenosha, WI), and Morley Field (San Diego). I remember the excitement of track racing and have longed to see a facility locally.

About 2 years ago I started to research the cost and interest in the Sacramento area by doing some canvassing of many bike shops. The response was overwhelming.

Are you considering indoor or outdoor? I have seen a very nice modular velodromes which can be installed both indoor and outdoors. A gentleman by the name of Chris Nadovich has a website regarding modular track systems. Although I did not speak with Mr. Nadovich, and am sure that he can provide viable options.

Best regards,

John Larsen
Granite Bay, CA

dean said...

Way to go Dean. Talk about a long road and some real commitment! That's what it's going to take to return track racing to Sacramento.
There's loads of vacant tilt-up space in the Sacramento area, I hope you consider an indoor facility.
See you Sunday!

Best of luck,
Carmichael, CA

track racer said...

I am wishing you the best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I worked at T-Town for several years, and have lived in Northern Cal for 13. I often say "Sacramento" really needs a velodrome. Maybe we can get the Bay Area crew who ventures up to Tahoe & Reno to stop by the velodrome and place some bets on healthy folks in Lycra?!

gosofrnwd said...

I remember the board track in burbank in 1953. Great fun. Left my front teeth there. We were on T V for awhile . It folded but inspired george garner to promote encino . The first track at encino was asphalt and bumpy Then converted to concrete , still a little bumpy . There were some great races there . I've never forgotton howard rogers falling from a track stand to lose the olympic trials in 56. Harry backer rode that one too. cfs

james said...

You should get some of the Burning Man crowd interested. They could build a track at the event in August, burn it after Labor Day, then build a permanent track in Sacremento.

Stan said...

PLEASE build a 250m track like ADT. I like Hellyer's 333m concrete, but there's nothing like a 250m indoor wood. I'll have to split my track time between San Jose and Sacramento. Can't wait!!
Stan Terusaki, Livermore

Mike said...

1. Some 20/30 yrs ago, the City of Sac was willing to donate land within Del Paso Park for a velodrome. Don't know if this could be put back on the table but there certainly is a lot of undeveloped land at DPP (Auburn Blvd just east of Watt Ave).
2. As far as I know, the Sac County General Plan still includes a provision for a velodrome at Mather Park. Also, when this was being discussed, originally, UC Davis expressed interest in constructing a "Sports Lab" in conjunction with the velodrome to be utilized for various cycling testing ($$$!). It might be advantageous include UC Davis in the equation. Also, also, Dr. Max Testa had a long involvement with UC Davis and I've heard it mentioned that he may be returning to Sac.
3. Although it's not very glamorous, to get the ball rolling, perhaps a low-cost type velodrome should be considered rather than a World Cup type facility. People (especially kids) can still have a lot of fun on an asphalt track with 25 degree bankings. Just some points to consider. Mike Macdonald, Jaeger Wheelmen/BEER

Dino Dante said...

We are looking at building a 250m outdoor wood track like Bloomer Park or Frisco.

ADT is a beautiful track but it costs $30,000 per month for climate control. That is more than Hellyer's budget for a whole year. And that's just the AC bill. We want kids on 12" bikes in the infield, not volleyball nets to pay the rent!

250m is important becuase it is the Olympic and World Cup standard. It's no coincidence that two of the current Team USA sprinters are from Alpenrose. They have steep banks and a sprinting program...go figure.

250m is also important because it is more intimate for spectators and is more fun for madison style races.

During the hottest months, workouts can be done in the morning, and racing can start at 8:00PM. Anyone that says it's too hot here probably hasn't gone to River Cats games on beautiful August night.

The track must be durable enough to handle juniors and beginners
and be accessable to anyone willing to do three orientation sessions.

Thanks to EVERYONE for your interest and comments! keep it coming!!!

Anonymous said...

There's a former Olympic track racer, a four time Olympian, a silver and gold medalist in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, an active world class coach...and a world class person living in the Sacramento area...might be worth talking to Harvey Nitz if you get the chance...

Anonymous said...

correction - Harve won BRONZE in the individual pursuit and silver in the team pursuit, not gold...although if you know the story you would know the US should have won gold in the team pursuit...

Dino Dante said...

Harv! Yeah, he coaches several of my buddies. He's on our short list of people to call for the ground breaking. But right now I need money, guns, and lawyers!

And hey, it is proper etiquette to sign your name to an anonymous post, thanks!

Rik said...

Great groundwork for a great project! I posted photos from the Savage Sprints Roller Racing at Hot Italian last night:

Rik Keller

Anonymous said...

Dino, what fun last night, any cyclist would enjoy the goldsprints at hot italian, and no front wheel makes it safe for all parties. Ric, thanks for posting pics.

Kirk M

Anonymous said...


This is a long time coming. Thanks for your efforts in the community spearheading this. Sign me up for Sac Velodrome T-Shirts and hats to support the cause. How about a raffle of some sort to generate funds? If there are links on Facebook, that would also help the awareness of the project.

Alan Walls
Davis Bike Club

Anonymous said...

Hey Dino! I just wanted to say that this is awesome and I would like to help however I can - volunteer when I can, donate when I can to support the cause. I hope that we can learn more about ways to help as your work continues. Now that I've made the association of who you are w/the savage sprints, I will be out for that one of these days. Thanks for all your work- so awesome! Jodi Cassell, Hammerin Wheels, Sac

Anonymous said...

Hey Dino

I recall some mention of building a velodrome here back in the 80's and 90's (Arco Arena Parking
Lot Crit Era) when I was racing road bikes, doing river rides, crits, road races, Eppie's, double centuries ,single centuries and Death rides myself. Unfortunately nothing close was ever built in this area.

I for one just never cared to drive to San Jose spewing fumes from a gas powered vehicle, as well as the 3+hr round trip commute fighting Bay Area traffic, in order to experience Velo Track Racing. (even though my one strong suit, if any, on a bike is probably sprinting).
So this then is a very worthwhile venture for our area. I may even be inspired to resume racing in the 55+ category if there was a solid track facility in our area.

Would it make sense to design build an "indoor" or a "sheltered" track facility in Sacramento close to bike trails and bike lanes so we could pedal to it as well as being sheltered from any extreme elements during winter wet cold snaps and summer heat spare the air days ? (Just my 20 dollars worth)

Thank You for all of your efforts in getting Track Racing to Sacramento !!

Clyde Z.(T-Race) Sacramento , Ca.

andres said...

Great to hear about your commitment to the project. I have been thinking and researching how to do build a velodrome in the East Bay for a few years now and have some ideas that may (or may not) be useful to you. Drop me an email and let's talk. I believe there is a sweetspot between Bloomer Park and ADT. You just need to decide who you are doing it for.
Andres Eulate
Oakland, CA

dbybe said...

I am not a racer but lived in LA when the velodrome was built for the 84 Olympics. I typically do not go to sporting events, but went to a couple of races with my wife just before we left LA.. Velodrome racing is the most exciting thing I have ever seen, and makes a great spectator sport. The races are intense. All the action is visible from anywhere in the stands. The races are fairly short so you get a lot of variety in one evening. A velodrome will be a great addition to Sacramento and should be a popular spectator sport once people become aware of it. I will help where I can.
Don Bybee, Sacramento, CA