Scott King and Len Cabaltera compete against Willy Gauss and Kenton Merrick in a tandem race around 1990 at the Washington Park Velodrome. The track was resurfaced a few years later, the last time it faced significant repairs since its most recent renovation began in 2015.
it’s “quite a bit different” than when he rode, the track’s mission has stayed consistent in that it remains a “great starting point for youth to get involved in cycling.” Longtime rider and volunteer Len Cabaltera said the “success of the overall program” the track sets forth each new season lies in engaging the youngest generation of riders through its Monday Night Racing events, which invite people to bring their own bikes to the track and test it out. This gives amateurs a chance to try out what could become a “lifelong sport” in a relaxed and safe environment, he added, while also offering a chance to “reach across the lines” of the cycling community to encourage avid mountain and road bike racers to try something new. Riva, who is working with Cabaltera to plan this year’s race programming, watched as her son began racing in the Monday night programs nearly two decades ago at 5 years old. She, too, recalls heading to the Velodrome to “ride around the track” during her own childhood in Kenosha. “It’s always been a part of the family,” she said. “Getting those younger kids involved, it’s ‘the next generation’ type of thing.”
As construction continued for months and the gates of the Velodrome remained locked, Riva was heartened to see ridership not only hold steady, but actually increase while Velodrome
volunteers continued the Monday night races out of a nearby museum parking lot the past two years. And when the track reopens, they’ll have a new area to ride on, as a warmup circle was added to one end of the Velodrome in the renovation. Cabaltera said it’s been “exciting” to watch the track, recognized as an “iconic landmark” in Kenosha, get some much-needed updates. But it’s also renewed his own interest in returning to racing, an outlook many longtime Velodrome visitors apparently share. “By word of mouth already, there’s guys who raced back in the ’80s and ’90s (who) are all excited to come back and ride the new track,” he explained. “I’ve raced all around the country at different tracks, and it’s the hometown feel of Kenosha that keeps riders coming back.” Cline, who lives in Chicago, has commuted up to Kenosha since he first started racing there about seven years ago – and despite breaking three ribs during one ill-fated race on the track – he said he “goes out of his way” to spend time at the Velodrome and enjoy an atmosphere you don’t get at other facilities. “Every velodrome has its own dynamic, nuances and characters that run their tracks, and Kenosha to me has just been the friendliest,” he added. “Everybody knows everybody, people are yelling at you as you go around the turns, and it turns into an event. Not a lot of tracks are necessarily like that.” l
Racing returns to Velodrome May 16 Riders will be among the first to break in the Washington Park Velodrome’s new track during the season’s first “Tuesday Night Racing” program May 16. The weekly races have long served as the track’s premier event, grouping licensed riders ages 9 and up into “ability categories” who compete in long-distance and sprint events, according to the Velodrome’s website. The most advanced riders reach speeds of more than 35-40 miles per hour on track bikes, which are fixed gear with no brakes. John Cline, a veteran racer of the track who also serves on the board of the Kenosha Velodrome Association, said the “nonstop” pace of the Tuesday events ensures there’s always action on the track, as participating riders typically race at least three times during the evening. He added that safety is often the first concern people have when it comes to trying out the track for the first time, but explaining the dynamics of the sport is just part of the process of building new ridership. “The brakes thing just kind of freaks everyone out,” Cline said with a laugh. “But if nobody has brakes, everyone’s in the same predicament, and it’s an even playing field for all the racers.” Tuesday Night Racing, which runs through Aug. 29, is joined by the track’s popular “Monday Night Stock Bike Racing” program in mid-June. Riders as young as 3 can “bring their own bike” and compete within their age group. Race director Chris Riva said the Velodrome, which has hosted seven national championships in its 90 years of existence and is the oldest continually operating track in the country, will bring back some of its “big races” from past years this season. Its upcoming schedule includes the 50-lap Mayor’s Cup, 150-lap Bob Pfarr Classic and Kenosha News juniors points race for riders ages 9-18. For more on the racing schedule, visit kenoshavelodrome.com. SPRING 2017 YOUR FAMILY 23
Your Family Spring 2017