Richard C. Martin Jr. wants to put a lid on bike racing in New England.
A roof, that is, over an oval track. New England has no velodrome, and the other 19 in the country are outdoors.
Martin, a seafood marketer in Brookline who got hooked on track bike racing five years ago, is only able to make the trip to the nearest velodrome, in Trexlertown, Pa., five or six times a year. He's frustrated that he loses fitness in the winter, when road cycling is not possible here and cross-training can't make up for real miles in the saddle.
The New England District Track Cycling Championships, held on automobile speedways, draws only about 50 entrants a year, Martin said. But he's convinced that if a proper track were accessible, the region's thousands of competitive cyclists would make use of it. In other words, if you build it, they will come.
Martin and a handful of compatriots have formed the New England Velodrome Committee with the hope of doing just that. The group is writing proposals to present to prospective backers this summer and already has the support of the U.S. Cycling Federation, which governs racing, and the Boston Organizing Committee, which will bid to have the 2008 Summer Olympics in the Hub.
While the Olympic group wants the cycling venue closer to Boston, the velodrome committee sees Worcester as an ideal location for continued, multisport use of the arena after the Games because it's central, Martin said.
For Martin, 39, who was always a good sprinter, the speed of the velodrome is alluring. Last year in Blaine, Minn., Martin won the masters World Cup match sprint, in which seeded riders take to the track three at a time for an all-out 1-kilometer burst, about three laps. Last July in Colorado Springs, Colo., with a rolling start for a flying 200-meter sprint, he was unofficially clocked at 11.09 seconds, better than the record time of 11.4 seconds. That translates to about 45 mph.
An American invention, velodrome racing drew huge crowds at the turn of the century, especially up and down the eastern seaboard. The star was Worcester's own Marshall "Major" Taylor, world cycling champion in 1899. Six-day races, which mix sprints, pursuits and other events, remain popular in Europe. Madison races, the two-person relays that are the main element of six-days, were named for Madison Square Garden in New York, where they originated.
The New England Velodrome Committee is promoting three possibilities to recapture the glory days of track racing: Import the dismantled track used for the 1993 World Championships in Hamar, Norway, and reassemble it here; get the track that will be built for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, which Atlanta plans to tear down after the Games; or build one from scratch.
The indoor velodrome being built in Vancouver has a price
tag of about $1.3 million, Martin said.
The popular Tour de Lowell is back after a one-year hiatus. Billed as New England's largest "citizen" race (no USCF license required), the 50-kilometer road race is expected to draw more than 800 entrants, according to race director Charlotte LaPierre of the The Sun, the chief sponsor.
The event has been changed from Memorial Day weekend, when
it was tough to get volunteers to do the work it takes to stage a race, to June
12, and there will be no pro race this year. The route is the same as in years
past, heading into Windham, N.H. There are eight age categories for men, five
for women, and there will be six children's bike and trike races downtown. The
entry fee is $20 for adults, $8 for kids 15 and younger. Entry deadline is May
31. For an entry blank, call The Sun in Lowell (458-7100).
Paul Angiolillo's second book, "The Mountain Biker's Guide to Southern New England (Menasha Ridge Press and Falcon Press, $12.95), has detailed maps and descriptions of 58 places to take to the trail. Angiolillo, who lives in Watertown, is author of a similar guide to northern New England, published last year. His picks in Central Masschusetts include the state forests in Brimfield, Winchendon, Leominster, Douglas and Upton and a former railroad bed on the Ayer-Pepperell line.
TIP OF THE HELMET -- To Princeton police for giving "tickets" to children wearing bike helmets last month. The tickets were good for free ice cream cones at Kwik Stop or Captain Bob's, paid for by the two businesses and the Princeton Police Association. The police gave out 180 tickets in two weeks, positively reinforcing a new state law that requires bicyclists 12 and younger to wear helmets.
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