Track Cycling for the Masses

By Adam Bowers

The bright lights beaming down onto the grand stand, the roaring of the crowd, the pounding of hands on the boards, the whoosh of the bikes as they fly by – this must be the scene from a cycling track somewhere in France.

Or is it?

We here in the tri-state area are lucky enough to have our own magnificent velodrome, the Valley Preferred Cycling Center (VPCC), just an hour away from Philadelphia in the little town of Trexlertown, PA. This track isn’t just your small town race circuit though. T-Town (as it has been fondly called for years) produced an astounding peloton of cycling superstars: 140 national champions, seven world champions, seven Olympians, and two Olympic medals – a silver and a gold.

You don’t have to be a track superstar to ride on this fabled concrete circle, though. In fact, a lot of the riders that made up those previous numbers started their track cycling career when they were first getting off of training wheels. The Valley Preferred Cycling Center has several different programs in place to encourage residents to take advantage of such a world-renowned velodrome that exists in their own backyard.

With over three decades of history and experience, these programs ensure that the participants in all programs will receive world-class training, regardless of age or ability level. Helmets and bikes are provided free of charge as well for all programs except for the PeeWee Pedalers program, which requires children bring their own bicycles. Having five different programs means there’s something for everyone, even the adults.

For the youngest of the crowd, the PeeWee Pedalers program is intended for 5 to 8 year olds who are able to ride without training wheels. Over the course of five Saturday-morning classes, children are taught the basics of bicycle and helmet safety. They learn to ride through obstacles and eventually make their way to the banked surface of the track itself. The course culminates with a ride under the lights on a Friday night at one of the World Series of Bicycling events.

For those too old for the PeeWee Pedalers, children ages 9 to 16 can take part in the Red Robin Marty Nothstein Bicycle Racing League (BRL). The BRL is offered in both the spring and fall, and follows a nine-week course.

Throughout the nine weeks, participants will learn track racing skills and compete against each other in four teams. At the end of the course, the top racers in each category will compete against each other at the BRL All Star Finals, which will be held on a Friday night during a World Series of Bicycling event.

The most popular program, the Air Products Developmental Cycling Program, has graduated over 15,000 participants. This is the program that has graduated many of the champions that came out of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, such as Marty Nothstein, Bobby Lea, Ben Barczewski, Andy Lakatosh, the late Nicole Reinhart, and more. The Air Products program is open to anybody 5 years and older, including adults. Each session lasts four weeks and is broken down into age and skill level specific categories, so that everybody is equal. Most classes meet during the week, however, adult classes are held on weekends. Top riders from each category and class will be invited to the Air Products Finals in August, and will race against each other to claim ultimate bragging rights and the Air Products Champion jersey.

Interested in track racing but don’t want to dedicate the weeks required for the Air Products program? Don’t worry, you’re covered. The Try the Track! program meets three times a season for one four hour Sunday class at a time. Try the Track! is basically a condensed version of the Air Products program. Most participants are active road riders looking for more and people who are curious about the world of track racing.

Finally, if your company could use some team-building through track racing, the Corporate Challenge may be just what the HR department ordered. Teams of 6 to 8 from your company meet once a week for five weeks and learn to work together as a track race team. After the five week training period, company teams go on to compete against other companies at a World Series of Cycling event.

Regardless of your age or experience level, the Valley Preferred Cycling Center offers a program that can kick-start your or your child’s possible track racing career. For more information about the Valley Preferred Cycling Center’s Community Programs, visit www.thevelodrome.com.