ROCK HILL — Friday was nana camp for 4 year-old Caleb Williams of Rock Hill. He got to spend the day with his grandmother, Neva Carico.
Their morning activity was the races at the Giordana Velodrome, site of the Elite Omnium National Championships.
It was a scrapbook moment for Caleb.
As he watched the riders spin around the track his youthful exuberance bubbled.
I can learn to do this! said Caleb, who has yet to master a two-wheeler, but likes to ride his Spiderman four-wheeler.
Calebs excitement captured the spirit of the day. I can learn to do this described the outlook of organizers and riders.
There were a few apologies from track staff as Fridays session was the first national event for the velodrome. They asked forgiveness as they learned how to run a national event.
Riders were saying they too could learn to do this as they worked to determine what the best gears are for omnium events at the Giordana track. The bikes have only one gear, but the gear can be changed depending on the type of race and the habits of the rider.
For years, the event has been held in California as part of the national cycling championships. This is the first time the omnium championships have been held as a stand-alone event.
Calebs amazement was echoed by Rick McCall of the Carolina Cycling Time Trial Association.
This is a work of art, McCall said as gazed over the complex. This is more stylish than other velodromes.
It is certainly far different from the Charlotte Motor Speedway where the Carolina Cycling Time Trial Association holds its monthly events. The time trial at Charlotte Motor Speedway is 10 miles long. Riders are set off at intervals and timed to see how long it takes them to complete the course. While they race with others on the track, they are racing against the clock.
McCall said the association events attract about 300 riders a month many from Rock Hill. League racing at the Giordana track should easily meet or exceed that mark, he said. Several of the Carolina riders in the omnium have been learning their craft during at the Rock Hill league races.
Most of riders, however, were spinning at Giordana Velodrome for the first time Friday. They liked the tracks geometry. At 250 meters long and with 42-degree banks it meets Olympic standards.
The tracks concrete surface was bumpy when compared to the wooden track, they said. But it had the feeling of good speed, said Zachary Kovalcik of Portland, Ore.
The trick is to learn a way to corkscrew up the track without expending energy so you can dive down at maximum speed and take advantage of the big gear, he said.
Riders also were learning just how their style fit the track and each of the six different omnium races. Kovalcik said he usually is a reactionary racer that rides with anger. Others in the competition steadier, concentrating on keeping a sustainable, hopefully winnable pace.
With some events based on speed, others on endurance, and strategy always a key element, winning an omnium requires consistently.
As an economic generator for the area, most agreed the races and Friday and Saturday were a good start. But with 39 riders in the mens, womens and masters field, the economic impact likely will be minimal.
But Thad Fisher, cycling coordinator for the velodrome sees the day when Rock Hill hosts the junior national championships, or the elite national championships, or the collegiate national championships. A national event typically attracts about 500 riders and the races last three to four days.
Attendance at Fridays morning session was officially 400, but seemed sparser. The evening session drew a crowd of about 1,000, said John Taylor, supervisor with Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
"We're very pleased with the attendance," Taylor said.
The racing concludes today with morning and evening sessions. There is no admission charge.
Many in attendance Friday had ties to cycling. A few, such as Randy Lawson of Sharon, came out of curiosity. Lawson remembers the day when the Celanese Corporation of America operated one the largest textile plants at what is now called Riverwalk.
Lawson said doesnt expect much in the short term. Things should improve as more cycling operations such as the BMX track open around the velodrome. Things should also improve when the retail component of the Riverwalk development happens.
It shows Rock Hill is not the stepchild to Charlotte, Lawson said.
But how long it will take for the long-term vision to become reality is unclear.
If we all had crystal balls, it wouldnt be fun, he said.
Don Worthington 803-329-4066