Valley Preferred Cycling Center is the most celebrated velodrome in modern American cycling history – can trace its beginnings to the dream of one inspired visionary and its history2legendary success to the inspired dreams of countless champions who began their trek to glory on its 333-meter track.
Known for the first 20 years of its existence as the Lehigh County Velodrome – or simply T-Town, as it is affectionately referred to by the national and international racers who make it their home here each summer – the concrete crater in a corn field was the idea of publisher Bob Rodale. Rodale fell in love with track cycling while competing as an Olympic and Pan American games skeet shooter in the 1960s. The president of Rodale Press, and later publisher of Bicycling and Mountain Bike magazines, knew in his heart that the excitement and colorful action of this healthful sport could capture the interest of Americans.
Rodale was a visionary but he was also a practical businessman. He made sure his dream was built to last by consulting with numerous national and international cycling organizations, racers and knowledgeable contractors. Construction began in 1974 on a plot of land in Trexlertown, PA, owned by Bob Rodale and his wife, Ardath. As the work progressed and the track took shape, Rodale worked with community leaders to create programs such as the Air Products Developmental Cycling Program that would spark a local interest in bicycle racing. He also donated his land and the partially completed facility to Lehigh County in return for a pledge that the county would continue to support development of the track and its programs.
Rodale reached out to two of the most celebrated cyclists of the 1960s and 1970s – Jack Simes III and David Chauner – to bring his dream to life. Working with the late Artie Greenburg and announcer Brian Drebber, Simes and Chauner launched an immediate effort to attract top international cyclists and events, creating a foundation that has made Valley Preferred Cycling Center the most active and successful velodrome in the United States.
The first race was held on October 12, 1975. In the early years of Lehigh County Velodrome, there were no locker rooms, rest rooms, or bleachers, there wasn’t even a railing at the top of the track. From those early days when Jerry “The Gentle Giant” Ash and Leigh “The Tree” Barczewski and his brother Les, along with cycling greats such as Gil “Gibby” Hatton and women riders such as Sheila Young and Connie Paraskevin reignited the sport of track racing in the United States, Rodale’s dream did catch the imagination of the American cycling public.
Simes and Chauner were followed by equally imaginative and talented leaders, from Leigh and Karen Barczewski to Pat McDonough, and the concrete crater continues to produce world-class competitors and events.
Since the mid-1970s, Valley Preferred Cycling Center has hosted World Cups, Olympic Trials, the Junior World Championships (twice), National Championships and countless major international competitions, creating stars and producing top international competitors, such as former Junior World Sprint Champion Sarah Uhl, who won her title in a dramatic finish during last race of the event before a cheering hometown crowd.