Ten years ago, University Bicycles founder Doug Emerson and his business partner, Frank Banta, had a Kevin Costner moment: If you build it, they will come. The “it” in this case was an Olympic-size cycling track known as a velodrome, which finally became a reality this summer. Erie’s Boulder Valley Velodrome track is the first of its kind in the Denver metro area and only the second in the state. (The other is in Colorado Springs and was built in 1983.)
“There’s a business element to it,” says Banta, citing a resurgence in the sport of track cycling. “We felt with our growing community and the interest in cycling along the Front Range—hundreds of thousands of active cyclists live between Fort Collins and Castle Rock—there’s surely a market to justify this venture.”
Construction of the project began in 2012, and after multiple delays because of violent storms and flooding in fall 2013, the velodrome officially opened in August. To start with, Emerson and Banta plan to accommodate 10 35-member clubs. (A club membership costs $500 per person, per year.) After Emerson and Banta solidify a training schedule for those teams, recreational riders who pass a training course will be able to rent bikes for a few fast-paced laps. Spectators, of course, are always welcome. bouldervalleyvelodrome.com
Race formats vary widely on velodromes. The most common type of race is a distance event in which multiple riders compete at the same time over a specified distance. You’ll also find relay-style formats and single-lap races—the latter last only about 15 seconds. And then there’s elimination: The last rider is dropped after a certain number of laps until only a single competitor remains.
Velodrome bicycles have no brakes and fixed gears (one speed)—a potentially terrifying thought when you consider these bikes can hit 40 mph. Because movement of the pedals is directly linked with the movement of the rear wheel, racers have to stop track bicycles gradually. “That way, nobody can stop too fast,” which can lead to nasty accidents, says Banta. These bikes are also designed so that the pedals don’t hit the track when riders bank around a turn.
Emerson and Banta coated the track with Sikkens gritted deck paint. The paint grips bike wheels and allows the racers to more comfortably reach record-breaking speeds.
The south side of the track features bleachers on a platform with enough room for about 250 spectators.
It wouldn’t be Colorado without a view. From the track, riders and spectators can see a panorama of the Front Range, including the iconic Longs Peak.
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There are no strict guidelines governing the shape of a velodrome track, so no two are exactly the same. The Erie track stretches 250 meters, which has become
the standard track length for Olympic events.
Pitched at 11.5 degrees on the straightaways and 41.5 degrees on the turns, the track mimics the one used during the 2012 London Olympics. Emerson and Banta decided not to design the turns any steeper (some tracks are pitched up to 45 degrees) to accommodate beginning riders.
The list of riders involved with the track reads like a who’s who of local racing talent. Club coaches include Colby Pearce, an former Olympic cyclist, and Cari Higgins, a pro track cyclist. Popular 24-year-old pro cyclist and Boulder native Taylor Phinney is also a founding member of the velodrome.
To ride at the Boulder Valley Velodrome, you’ll need a category 4 racing license, which will allow you to race in any cycling event in the country. The track will have its own $250 certification course: eight 90-minute sessions covering everything from safety to racing strategy.