Saturday, August 8, 2009

Visiting the Velodrome

This past Thursday I did something I should have done years ago. In fact, the whole time I was at this event I was kicking myself for having lived in the Twin Cities for 19-years and waiting so long to attend.

I headed to Blaine to the National Sports Center outdoor Velodrome. Let me tell you, as a cycling fan this is awesome. The NSC Velodrome was designed and built in 1990 by Ralph Schurmann of Munster, Germany. The track is made from Afzelia wood to create a fast 250 meter oval track with...get this...43-degree banking in the turns.

Why go? First, admission is free. There is bleacher seating. There's a concession stand. And there's lots of action on the track. But first you need to understand all those lines on the ice hockey! All velodromes have lines painted on the track’s surface.

» The “cote d’azur” or band of blue, marks the tracks inside boundary. Racers may not ride on or below this wide band, except for emergencies or during the slow tactical maneuvering during match sprint competition.
» The black “measurement line”, as the name implies, is used to measure the distance around the track.
» The thin red line around the track is the “sprinters line” and it defines the sprint lane between the red line and the blue band. A leading rider in this lane is said to “own the lane” and may only be passed by a rider going over on the right.
» The uppermost thin blue line is the “stayer’s line” or relief line. It marks the boundary between faster and slower traffic, with the faster riders below the line while the slower “relief” riders are above this line during Madison races.

The types of races I saw were -

Scratch Race
The most fundamental race in the velodrome. All riders start at the same place (on scratch). The rider that crosses the finish line first on the final lap wins. Scratch races vary in length from 8 laps and up, and are typically the first event of the evening.

Points Race
The points race may seem confusing at first glance, but it can be one of the most fun events to watch. Essentially, riders cover distances of 10-40 km, and the rider who accumulates the most points, wins the race. Points are awarded during sprints every 8-10 laps. The first four finishers in these sprints are awarded 5,3,2 and 1 points respectively. If a rider laps the field, he or she is awarded 20 points. Any rider that loses a lap on the field has 20 points deducted from his/ her total.

This is a points race in which the sprint points progress upward as the race progresses. Often the sprints are each lap and the points awarded correspond to the number shown on the lap cards. The lap cards start at 1 on the first lap and continue to count up as the laps increase.

Miss and Out Race
The Miss and Out or “Devil take the hindmost” is an elimination race in which the last rider across the finish line every other lap is withdrawn from the race. The tension builds lap after lap as the riders fight for position at the back of the pack. One by one the field is whittled down to the final three riders who then sprint for first second and third place.

One of the most exciting races to watch on the track, the Madison (so named because it originated in Madison Square Garden) is a race consisting of two-rider teams. The riders are required to switch off during the race by means of an exchange. While one member of the team races his partner slowly circles the track above the blue relief line. When they meet, the racer passes his momentum to his partner via a push or “hand sling” before moving up to the relief line to recover for his next effort. Races may be run over a specified number of laps or over a period time. Often, sprints for points are offered as a means of enlivening the action.

Here is a sampling of photos from last nights 'Thursday Night Lights' held on August 6. To see a slide show of all the photos, go here. Note - click on thumbnail for larger view.

And of course, I took the FlipShare so you could see a video sampling as well. The roller-derby Madison race appears in the last few minutes.

I had a chance to meet with a person I know, Don Schmeichel, in between his events. Don stated that in thier first event of the night they had been flying along at 35 MPH. When you look at the video, it just looks so effortless does it not! But when I was standing at trackside....those boys were flying.

I plan to catch a few more sessions before the season ends on September 10. And who knows? Maybe next year, I'll be racing Cat 5 out there myself!

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