by Vance Macdonald
Labels seem to be inescapable in our little cycling bubble. “I am a climber” this, and “I am not a racer” that. Although generally not a fan of these labels, I am as guilty as anyone of using them. Two years ago, my perception of Track Riders comprised of a) hipsters and b) mostly Aussie and Euro participants of an extremely esoteric and fringe sport. This, despite living one block from the Encino Velodrome at the time.
Here is yet another example of the many benefits that come with belonging to a great club. La Grange’s two resident Track ambassadors, Quinn Hatfield and Richard Kim, arranged club events at both of our local velodromes in January 2011. The Encino session helped break down my preconceived notions, but it was the LA Velodrome (LAV) in Carson where an epiphany hit me like Jake Blues at the Triple Rock Church.
Entering this building is truly a religious experience. A significant part of the electricity for me is in the delightful mix of contradictory sensations. On the one hand, it is a sparkling world class training facility designed for speed and the latest technology. In distinct contrast, however, with its aroma of pine and sweat, LAV has a guttural old school gym rat vibe. It always reminds me of an interview with Bill Walton describing the original Boston Garden (which had no air conditioning) when he joined the Celtics at the end of his career (paraphrasing, and possibly embellished due to my advancing years): “I just love this place. I love the smell. It’s not a fancy arena, it’s a GYM.”
I often hear people make auto racing analogies when discussing criteriums. Along those lines, if crits are NASCAR, then a session at LAV is like taking your flathead street rod to Bonneville for a speed run: a stripped down, no frills, elemental adrenaline rush. I am never so locked into a pure cycling zone than when I am at LAV. No stop signs, no distracted drivers, no car doors… just endless smooth-as-glass pine, one gear, and no brakes. And the g-force when carving a turn at 40mph is more fun than any rollercoaster.
My love letter to LAV would not be complete if I did not also mention that my rides there (most notably Roger’s Sessions) have been the most beneficial workouts in my cycling experience. Whether that is due to fixed gear (no micro-recoveries from coasting), or cadence work, or pseudo-intervals, I just know that whenever I hit a plateau in my training, a few sessions on the boards with Roger always produces surprisingly positive results.
No matter your niche, I strongly encourage you to give track cycling a try. You might not have the same transformative experience, but I can certainly guarantee both fun and results.