Nearly 30 years after cycling from Rock Hill to Huntsville, Ala., Peyton Drake and his daughter Libby Neely spent their Saturday morning at the Giordana Velodrome for the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championship.
After Drake retired at 66, he convinced his daughter to ride the 440 miles to his hometown over a four-day period. Although the trip had its ups and downs, Neely said she is proud to share the experience with her father.
“By the time we got there he was so dehydrated, but now he looks back on it and he thinks it’s the most wonderful thing he’s ever done,” Neely said. “So I’m glad we did it.”
Watching cyclists compete at the velodrome brought back memories of the father and daughter’s journey across state lines, Neely said. Although Drake has been fighting liver cancer for seven years, he hopes to be on a bike and ride a lap around Rock Hill’s velodrome for his upcoming 93rd birthday.
While Drake and Neely became cycling enthusiasts later in life, quite a few parents brought their young children to watch the races on Saturday. Kevin Webster brought his four-year-old twins, Conner and Riley. His friend John Harris brought his four-year-old son to see the championship races.
Harris and Webster have been cycling for 15 and 20 years respectively. Both got their children to start riding bicycles as soon as they were old enough.
“We get the best cyclists in the country and some of these guys are international competitors so it’s pretty cool,” Webster said.
After the races, Webster said he planned to take his children to a paved trail by the river to do some riding of their own.
Kyle Knott, program coordinator at the Giordana Velodrome and one of the day’s competitors, had a small crowd at the track to cheer him, including his fiance Karolin Eichler, his dog Thule and his 9-month-old niece Kate.
Knott and Eichler are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy biking, rock climbing and kayaking, which explains why their dog is named for an outdoor carrier-and-rack company.
Eichler said she was excited about the various forms of racing taking place throughout the event and said cyclists in Rock Hill enjoy having a velodrome in their city.
“We have a pretty big cycling community so a lot of people really appreciate this kind of stuff,” Eichler said. “This is an Olympic sized velodrome so it makes a big difference to actually have something of this caliber.”
Some spectators attended Saturday to learn more about a sport they didn’t have much experience with, such as David Schary.
Schary and his wife Lisa moved to Rock Hill from Oregon a week and a half ago and spent much of their first week at the velodrome watching the races.
“I’m the new assistant professor at Winthrop and I’m going to be in exercise science,” Schary said. “So this is what I love to look at and do, as well as my profession.”
Lisa Schary said watching the national cycling tournament gave the couple a great first impression of their new home.
“It’s so good to be able to see elite athletes at this level, first for free and then right in your town too,” she said.