Tuesday Night Racing: San Diego's hidden gem
As a follow-up to last week's article on track racing (link), I invite you, dear reader, to come to Tuesday Night Racing.
Ok, so most of you reading this probably don't live in San Diego, but the area hosts a bike racing scene unique to the region.
At the San Diego Velodrome on every tuesday night from April through September is Tuesday Night Racing, or TNR as it is known. Located near Balboa Park (built for the World's Fair in 1915) the current velodrome was constructed in the 1930's and resurfaced in the 1970's. A 333 meter outdoor concrete track sits at the edge of Morley Field and on the rim of a canyon with a view of downtown San Diego.
On Tuesday nights, San Diego track racers don't race for medals or money, but for bragging rights and beer (yes, beer primes are often as hotly contested as a finishing sprint). The spectators always make it interesting as well, as both crowd and riders feed off of each other's excitement.
The track's central location proves to be very spectator-friendly; on any given Tuesday night it is not uncommon for more than a hundred non-racers to inhabit the stands, along with their diverse bicycles. Located near the neighborhoods of Normal Heights, Hillcrest, and Golden Hill, the track is close to a good selection of restaurants and bars. Spectators often bring copious amounts of beer and wine to enjoy while rooting on the racers they know, and often don't know. (Admission is free for spectators and $10 for racers)
Photo by: Thomas Bike
It is also not uncommon to have live music, along with the infamous "slow race" where experienced trackies duke out their skills in balance and dexterity in a match of sumo wrestling on wheels.
Eric Hollenbeck is an SDSU cycling alumni, long time track racer, and one of the key orchestrators of TNR. While the lights began to dim after the last A's race I was chatting with him by the entrance. Kelcie King-York, his girlfriend, was escorting out the last of the spectators. Eric commented about it being late, but quickly shrugged, laughed, and commented: "I guess we should be thankful that we have spectators to kick out, huh?" He went on to comment how other tracks in southern California rarely ever have spectators, even for large regional or national events.
Politically, the San Diego Velodrome is autonomous from USA Cycling. It is run by the San Diego Velodrome Association, a grassroots organization run by volunteers and presided by Shaun Wallace, a former Olympian and World Champion on the track.
The San Diego Velodrome Association has a reputation for being extremely inclusive, which is somewhat of a rarity among bike racing in southern California. An adult track cycling class is taught several times of year for those wanting to learn track cycling, improve their road racing, or simply gain a better appreciation for the sport. The classes (link: http://www.crankcycling.com/
Photo By: John Welch
Experienced racers freely offer advice to novices, and the atmosphere is conductive to learning racing tactics. Afterward, many of the racers and spectators go out and grab dinner together, with nearby Lefty's Pizza being a popular destination.
If you're in town you owe it to yourself to come to TNR. If you're a San Diego local, TNR is the best free entertainment in town and makes for a great date option as well. I hope to see you there, and don't be a stranger. Look for the tall guy in the blue Swami's Cycling skinsuit.