National cycling championships return to Rock Hill velodrome

adouglas@heraldonline.comAugust 21, 2013 

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    Types of races

    Points race: Cyclists are aiming to collect as many points as possible by lapping others in the field and competing well during periodic sprints during the event. During Rock Hill’s points races, sprints will be held every 10 laps, with points awarded to the first four riders in every sprint. Gaining a lap earns a cyclist 20 points. Losing a lap detracts 20 points.

    Scratch race: The most basic race format, a scratch race is a start-to-finish event. The winner is the cyclist who reaches the finish line first.

    Madison: Two-member teams work together to earn sprint points or gain a lap. Sprints will be held every 20 laps. One team member rides at the top of the track while the other races below. To swap places, cyclists “tag” their team member or perform a “hand sling” to bring their teammate into the race.

    Keirin: A sprint event where cyclists ride behind a motorcycle for 5.5 laps, gradually increasing speeds. Riders aren’t allowed to pass the motorcycle but can jockey for position behind it. Once peak speeds are reached, the motorcycle pulls away, leaving riders to race for 2.5 more laps. The event is a sprint to the finish.

    Match sprint: Head-to-head competition between two riders who qualify through 200-meter time trials. Race organizers pair the riders together for the match sprint. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line after three laps.

    Glossary of terms

    Velodrome: The arena where cyclists zoom around a concrete track, down embankments and pedal past their competition. Rock Hill’s velodrome has 800 permanent seats and room for temporary seating. The 250-meter oval track features 42.5-degree banked turns and a 31,000-square-foot infield. The lighting at the track is television-quality and its features meet Olympic standards. Giordana, a clothing line for cyclists with a headquarters in Charlotte, bought the naming rights to Rock Hill’s track.

    Track bikes: Not your average rider, track cyclists ride one-gear bikes made from carbon fiber frames that cost up to $8,000, on wheels that cost up to $3,000 a pair. Track bikes have no brakes. To slow down, riders move up a velodrome’s embankment and then move back down to pick up speed.

    Carbon disk wheels: Track riders often have “deep dish” rims or carbon disk wheels that improve their bike’s aerodynamics when racing. “Deep dish” rims on bike wheels improve speed once a biker is moving at more than 25 mph. Carbon disk wheels, which look like a bike wheel with no spokes, improve a biker’s aerodynamics at 30 mph or more.

    Gloves: Once called track mitts, a biker’s gloves can be short- or long-fingered. The gloves give a rider padding on the bike’s handlebars and improve grip.

    Track rash: The equivalent to “strawberries” or “raspberries” in other sports, track rash happens when a rider falls off their bike and is injured. A biker who crashes at the top of an embankment will slide down the track, leading cyclists and the sport’s fans to call velodromes “self-cleaning” arenas. At the professional level, track rash is rare to see during a competition.

    Rollers: Before races, track cyclists use rollers to warm up in the velodrome’s infield. Rollers enable cyclists to pedal their bike without moving forward. A great deal of balance is required to use rollers safely. Some riders also use rollers to “cool down” after competing.

    Warm-up circle: A small, flat concrete circle in the infield. At Rock Hill’s velodrome, the warm-up circle is on the left side of the arena when the track is viewed from the grandstand.

    Apron: A flat portion of the track, the apron is the safety zone of the track. During competition, cyclists don’t race in the apron. Race officials are generally the only people allowed to stand in a track’s apron. Injured riders make their way to the apron.

    Chip timing: Officials rely on electronic chips to get precise race results. During most races, bikers will attach the chips to their ankle or their front wheel. During sprints – the sport’s fastest-paced aspect – officials use “photo finish” cameras to snap images of cyclists as they cross the finish line. The photos are reviewed to determine the winner.

    Judges and referees: Judges are responsible for determining an event’s results. Referees enforce the sport’s rules from various positions on the track.

    Starter: One of the most important jobs in a velodrome, a race starter fires a gun to tell bikers to start or stop.

    Drafting: Similar to NASCAR drivers, bikers can draft off other bikers on the track. Drafting in track cycling saves racers about 15 to 30 percent of their energy. The race leader is often the hardest-working cyclist, with competitors drafting behind him or her.

    Slingshotting: A racer can conserve energy by drafting, then pedal harder to sling-shot past a competitor.

    Derny or moto: Similar to a pace car in NASCAR, a motorcycle leads the field during Keirin races in track cycling. The job of the moto is to bring riders up to a high speed before it pulls off the track and cyclists sprint laps to the finish.

  • Rock Hill hosts national cycling championships

    What: Cyclists vie for top honors in five event types.

    When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, starting at 6.

    Where: The Giordana Velodrome at 1000 Riverwalk Parkway. From Cherry Road, parking is available near the Riverwalk entrance. Shuttles are available between the velodrome and parking lot starting nightly at 5 p.m.

    Other events at the velodrome:

    Rock Hill’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism staff members hold teaching and certification clinics for children and adults. Most Fridays, starting at 7 p.m., local cyclists participate in races. Children ages 5 to 15 can participate in youth programs at the velodrome. Loaner bikes are available for $5 for two hours during clinics or programs.

    For more information, visit www.giordanavelodrome.com, e-mail info.velodrome@gmail.com or call 803-326-2453.

— Track cycling is one of the few sports where spectators can get close enough to the action to see an athlete’s sweat.

Some fans call it “NASCAR on bikes,” but the banking that cyclists ride on in Rock Hill (42.5 degrees) is actually steeper than the turns at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama (33 degrees).

This week’s national cycling championship in Rock Hill brings the best competitors in the sport.

It’s the second year that the city has hosted cyclists vying for the top honors. Events are held at the Giordana Velodrome, part of the Rock Hill Outdoor Center at Riverwalk.

Rock Hill’s track cycling roots date back to 1890 when races were held on a quarter-mile track on the south end of Hampton Street. Historians say the competitions attracted up to 1,000 people and professional riders from around the country.

This year’s national-level races start on Thursday, and organizers expect at least 60 athletes to compete in the USA Cycling National Championship.

One of those cyclists is Bobby Lea, a two-time Olympian from Topton, Pa. Lea competed in the Olympic Games in Beijing and London.

In the women’s division, the majority of the riders are from the West Coast, including cyclist Ruth Winder, who was crowned “most aggressive rider” at a competition earlier this year and is a member of the USA Cycling team.

Many of the other athletes are returning to the Rock Hill track this week to defend their national championship titles from 2012.

While even Team USA cyclists don’t typically enjoy household-name status, the sport is followed by a crowd of diehard fans who won’t miss a minute of the action this week as riders reach up to 45 miles per hour.

To help those who are new to the track cycling sport and Rock Hill’s Giordana Velodrome, The Herald has compiled a beginner’s guide for spectators to enjoy USA Cycling’s Elite Mass Start Track National Championships. Admission to the races is free.

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