The American Velodrome Challenge came to San Jose's Hellyer Park track this past weekend and its $14,000 cash prize list attracted some of the biggest stars from around the world. American and Australian riders dominated the results with many events offering $1000 to the winner. There's nothing like a huge stack of Benjamins to bring out some exceptionally competitive racing.
Northern California and most recently, the Hellyer Park Velodrome has been a hotbed of track racing. In the 80's and 90's a Friday night racing series spanned 20 weeks in the spring, summer and fall. However, the resources necessary to keep such a series running and attracting top riders started dwindling in the new millenium. American Velodrome Challenge promoter, Rick Adams, decided to focus his efforts of bringing one, big race to the Hellyer Velodrome rather than spread himself thin over an extended period.
Judging from the turnout of top-quality riders and spectators and the bulging prize list Rick made the right call. To give the racing a bit of local flavor Adams mixed in a few master's and junior events which also allowed the top men and women a bit of a breather between their races.
One of the most exciting and popular events is the Japanese-born kierin race in which a group of six to eight cyclists pace behind a motorcycle for about a mile then with about a quarter of a mile(400 meters) remaining the motorbike pulls off the track and the race is on. The kierin is a national sport in Japan with the top racers there earning up to $2,000,000 per year.
Here are several photos of the kierin action.
Plans are already underway for the 2010 American Velodrome Challenge. No doubt it will be another highly successful event.