Portland’s Newest Attraction

November 19, 2009

Another editorial about the blessings of cycling in Portland appears on the pages of the Oregonian, furthering the idea that our city can become a true friend of the two wheeler and begin to reap even greater benefits from increasing ridership.

The city is considering many schemes to make riding safer and easier. Celebrating ridership in the Bridge Pedal and other festivals of velocipedic fun also adds to the support and enthusiasm the average person feels, and makes it easier for the city to promote far reaching bicycling plans. But there is another aspect of cycling that could be added to the mix in a really positive way.

Track cycle racing has thankfully long been a part of the Portland cycling scene. During the summer months when the evenings are long and clear, and often hot, the bare legs of the sprinters, pursuit riders, madison and keirin specialists flash in the bright sunlight. The Alpenrose Velodrome in the western suburbs of Portland is the scene of these heart thumping battles. Alpenrose is one a less than half a dozen tracks in the US and is often the venue of some very high level contests.

But it is a curiously limited activity since it competes strongly with so many other summertime attractions, and the weather has to cooperate. i.e The season is relatively short. In Europe and Australia, where track racing is very popular, it takes place in the winter months. All those road men who are keen to maintain some form over the winter go on the boards. Ask any Australian, or even the great Eddy Merckx himself. But of course it is indoors. Indoors in those famous velodromes where the greats have battled since the early part of the 20th century.

Portland has over the years developed a strong and determined track following that has fostered a great sporting ethic and training ground for young cyclists. If you know how to race on the track you become a much better cyclist. Crashing on the banking is a real lesson in how to control your line and reviewing your bike control skills.

It would be so wonderful and would attract so many more aspiring riders if Portland were to have its own indoor Velodrome. If Portland is a cycling city, then it should be the first American city to further celebrate an activity that is already part of its municipal ethic.

The beneficiaries of this would be not only the sporting men and women of the track racing fraternity, but also the cycling businesses of Portland, the up and coming racing young, and of course the city itself has yet another unique attraction that it can promote. . It would be the crowning achievement of a city that is so pro-cycling to host the national, the world or even Olympic track contests. A few thousand more hotel nights and meals could not hurt our city. Travel Porltand take note.

And it is the young racers who will get most out of this new venture. At so much less than the cost of a baseball team or any other professional sport with all its overpriced tickets and hyperbolic hoopla, track cycling could become a better attraction for them. Lung bursting, leg ripping, competitive racing. An indoor velodrome with racing every winter week could become a center for sporting youth and a resurgent national track movement, not to mention a great asset to the city.

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