Over the past month, I have been posting stories and information about various aspects of the sport of cycling in a private Facebook group for the Navy and Invictus Games cyclists whom I coach. I thought I would start sharing those posts here for a broader audience. I won't post everything I shared with them but will post the highlights here for you all to enjoy.

Velodrome Overview: My initial foray into cycling and is still my favorite discipline. Track cycling is essentially a condensed version of road racing- it’s higher intensity because races are contested over shorter distances. There are individual time trials and mass start (bunch) races in both sprint and endurance distances. Distances range from 200m (a time trial) that at the elite level takes about 9 seconds, up to 50km (mass start) which is completed in less than an hour. The international standard length is 250m with about a 45° banking in the turns. It’s essentially a big wooden bowl, like a small NASCAR track. Centripetal force keeps riders on the track without sliding off. Again, you have to keep moving forward to be successful. The bikes have a single, fixed gear which means riders must pedal the entire time, and to slowdown or stop, they use the banking of the track or apply gentle resistance to the pedals.

Around the turn of the 20th century, track cycling was the most popular sport in America. Its high intensity, grueling nature- some of the races were contested over six continuous days where riders would not sleep and would eat and drink on the bike- and nightclub atmosphere appealed to high stakes betting, and it was Al Capone’s favorite sport. Track cyclists were as high or higher paid than baseball players of the era like Babe Ruth. In fact, Madison Square Garden was originally a velodrome. One of the most exciting races in all of cycling- a two-person relay race with on-the-move tag-ins called “slings”- is called “The Madison” (sometimes “la American” in Europe).
With the breakout of WW2, the races stopped as the athletes were called to duty. When the war was over, track cycling never regained its previous popularity. People looking for calmer, more civilized sports like basketball and football. Around this time, the general public had much greater access to cars, and car culture and obsession took hold of the country. Today, it’s still a very popular discipline across Europe, and Oceana although there are fewer than thirty tracks in the US today. Track cycling is one of the best ways to improve your technical riding abilities. (however it is limited to only two-wheeled bikes.)

For more visual learners, this video is a good synopsis of the various events on the track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmMHEEOrzWU