We travel to the battleground by public transit, lulled by the train's mechanical hum as we cruise through the tunnels on the 7, or we motor along Horace Harding Parkway, but either way we find our way a few short blocks later entering the field of honor. We walk upon hallowed ground, ground which has drunk the blood of combatants, a place where arcane battles are regularly fought, yet upon which no ground or riches are exchanged. Modern warrior knights exchange chain mail for spandex and war horses for single speeds, but the gauntlet is still thrown down. In weekly competitions the knights go forth to defend their honor and to battle the evil foe not upon beaten paths of dirt but, rather upon 400 meters of banked curves of asphalt. The field of battle... The Kissena Velodrome!
The turns of the Velodrome are banked to allow the racers to achieve speeds of upwards of thirty miles an hour on the track's smoothly paced surface. Surprisingly accessible, not only is the track convenient to get to but, spectators can be so close to the racing action that the churning maelstrom created by the peloton as it sweeps by can literally ruffle the hairs on your arm. With this much bicycle competition and just plain old visceral excitement, one would expect a crowd thick with screaming, cheering hooligans. But, that fact that this admission-free event doesn't yet draw an overflowing crowd allows each viewer to be so deep into the action that they can almost smell the hot rubber on the track and every racer's ambition to be victorious. So get there now while the secret is still ours.
Before long this event with all the excitement of a boxing match, the speed of a Kentucky Derby, and the pageantry and colors of a joust, will grow to overflowing attendance. But for now the crowd of spectators is not overwrought with heady clamoring brigands reminiscent of the Coliseum in Rome or a joust in some medieval kingdom. In fact, the crowd consists of a quiet handful of family members and friends.
But friends, family and occasional spectators are all so close to the action that they can not help but to feel their collective pulse rise as the peloton erupts into a field sprint in unison. It delivers all the excitement and color of a horse race, but here the steeds are helmeted, oft tattooed and very, very human. All of them know that each race guarantees that one competitor will go home a winner.
Triumphant in his day of victory the fastest glories in his triumph while yet another may go home in despair as their dream of glory ends in a collar bone shattering crash that they narrowly survive. With all of these elements present, velocity, color, noise, anticipation, adrenaline - race night at Kissena is something that every cyclist should experience. Wednesday promises to be an entertaining night at the Velodrome... So, get yourself there and see the action.
To find out more about the Kissena Velodrome visit:
Kissena Track Info
Some action photos provided by: