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2021: The Year of Opportunity

Episode 11

“We’re called the Valley Preferred Cycling Center for a reason. It isn’t just about racing. It’s about being a center for cycling.”

– Joan Hanscom
Executive Director, Valley Preferred Cycling Center

On this week’s episode of Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down and discuss what the upcoming 2021 season could look like.


Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast, where we discuss all things track cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, I’m your host and executive director, Joan Hanscom, along with my cohost athletic director, Andy Lakatosh.

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to this week’s Talk of the T-Town Podcast, and a happy new year to all of our listeners. This is a podcast with staff only. We’re joined by Andy Lakatosh, director of athletics here at the track. Me, Joan Hanscom, your executive director, and Maura Beuttel, who is also sitting in on this call today. We are excited to start talking about the 2021 season. Before we go a step further, we want to reiterate that we’re very excited about the potential for 2021, some innovation, and we’re also telling you everything with a big, giant asterisk of COVID.

Joan Hanscom:

What we’re going to present today is our best case scenario, and we ask that if you are hanging on every word about what the 2021 season will look like, you just file it away in the back of your head, that there is an asterisk here, and we don’t have a magic eight-ball. We can’t see what’s going to happen with COVID. We are presenting to you today what we hope to accomplish, but we are aware that it may come with some pivots. With that somber message out of the way, welcome Andy, welcome Maura. Happy to have this conversation this morning.

Andy Lakatosh:

No, I’m really happy to be here and definitely excited to talk about this. We definitely finished with the age group best performances in September and the very next conversation you and I had the next day was, all right, what’s 2021 look like? Like you said, everything’s been COVID asterisk. We hope this is what’s going to happen. While I think we have a much better handle on what should be theoretically possible, I still remember the third week in June, we thought we were going to start mass start racing the second week of July, and it changed that much, that quick.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’re still taking it day by day, but I feel pretty confident in the plan that we have. I’m super excited about it. We’ve been talking about it. Other people have been talking to us about it, so it’s nice to finally publicly talk about some of what we got planned and where we want to go with things, but first-

Joan Hanscom:

Well, I want to stop you right there, Andy, and just flashback really quickly-

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s what I was going to say.

Joan Hanscom:

To offer up a big thank you to everybody who came out to play bikes with us this summer in the weird summer of 2020. I think it was really energizing in many ways for us as a staff. It gave us an opportunity to think creatively, or maybe it didn’t give us an opportunity. Maybe it forced us to think creatively which we did, and it was really gratifying to be able to have a season at all last year. I think it got us in touch with our customers who were here every Saturday in a different capacity, but we’re still here and we’re still present.

Joan Hanscom:

I just want to say to everybody who came out last summer, whether it was just to train, or to race the TTs on Saturdays, a big heartfelt thank you for continuing to come and play bikes with us. To just reiterate all of that hard work that everybody did, it really paid off, when we looked at the track records being set, new age group records being established, national records falling. It wasn’t a last year for us, 2020. It was just a different year. I just want to thank everybody who was willing to come out and play along and be part of what we did, and just recognize all of their hard work and what they accomplished.

Andy Lakatosh:

No, it was awesome having the community out. I know for me personally, leave the work side out of it here at the track, after being locked inside our houses in the spring, and unsure if even going for a bike ride with one other person was safe, or allowed, the mere routine of coming to the track on a Tuesday or Thursday morning at 10 o’clock and having a training session in the sun, even if we had different protocols of how we came in and temperature checks, and mass and everything else, it really made the year feels so normal, or more normal, more normal than it would have if we were still locked inside our houses, and so that was huge.

Andy Lakatosh:

When you look around at the other tracks around the country that opened in some capacity, or just did not open at all, I’m super proud of what we did and figured out how to do within the rules, and with guidance from LVHN, USA Cycling, and the County. There’s a lot of different hoops and stuff to jump through to keep everything safe and appease everyone. I think we did an awesome job, and super stoked on the community that came out and participated and played ball in a non-traditional year. But I think we had some really cool evolutions out of it.

Andy Lakatosh:

Like, having to register for a motoped session made them feel safer than I have ever felt behind a motor a day in my life, which was awesome. I look forward to keeping some stuff like that. It was fun to do the time trials, which I’d been conceptualizing doing for a few years, and adding in age group best performances as different categories and ways for people to stamp their name on the track, not just in a track record capacity, was a really cool evolution. I’m stoked that we got the opportunity to make those things happen because we had no other option.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, you made a good point, too, Andy. We benefited greatly, let’s say, from the partnerships that we have with Lehigh County, who gave us really great support. LVHN, certainly for providing medical insights and guidance, and also USA Cycling, which, USA Cycling doesn’t always get credit for doing a really great work. We talked with Tara McCarthy earlier in the pod season about how much work went into their return to riding and racing document, and it was really valuable. Again, just an opportunity to thank those three organizations for the support they gave us as well, because it was very, very helpful for us to be able to do what we did and we’re going to continue to rely on them as we move forward into 2021.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, it definitely played a huge part in us having confidence in what we were doing was the right thing and sticking to our guns. I definitely, I think it was a really smart move on our part, and a good approach to say, we’re going to open when we’re sure we’re going to be able to stay open. Not open for a week and then roll backwards. Because I think that, that’s harder on us. Really, it’s harder on the community that wants to use the track to be allowed to do something one week and then have to roll back the other way.

Andy Lakatosh:

I look at our summer and that we just built momentum through the entire year, and I’m proud of that. It’s through those partnerships and guidance that we were able to do that, so I’m grateful that we had so much input instead of just floundering about trying to figure it out on our own.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. I think they’ll continue to give us that good input and insight as we roll into 2021, which is, of course, a great segue to talking about what we’re here for today. I’ll start because it’s something that’s exciting for me. In the community programs realm, we are going to look at a traditional start to this community programming season, which is April timeframe. We don’t have an exact date yet, though we’re triangulating in with the hopes that we’ll be able to offer a spring bicycle racing league this year, like we have done in the past.

Joan Hanscom:

We do anticipate having the benefit of not having quite the group size restrictions that we were under last year, so hopefully it looks like a more normal BRL in the spring. For parents who are listening, who are interested in putting your kid in the BRL, stay tuned on the website. Those announcements will come out probably the mid February early March timeframe for when the start dates are for the spring BRL. Obviously we’ll run that all through our partner BikeReg, like we’ve done in the past, but stay tuned for that.

Joan Hanscom:

But we are anticipating a BRL that looks much more like a normal BRL than last year, which is really great because BRL is such an important piece of the pipeline for us. It’s how we get new track riders. So, returning to BRL is very exciting. But also kicking off the Women’s Wednesdays programming in April, which I don’t see any issues with. We ran it successfully all last summer, and Women’s Wednesdays is going to lead into something new and exciting in 2021, which is a Women’s weekend.

Joan Hanscom:

We worked closely with the participants in the Women’s Wednesday program to get their feedback on, okay, you’re coming out, you’re training on the track. You’ve done all of this great work with Kim Geist and Kim Zubris, and how do we convert you into bike racers? We took all of this feedback about just needing more information, more practice, more mentoring, and we compiled it, and we said, awesome. We’re going to do a two-day weekend at the beginning of the season after we’ve had an opportunity to go through the first cycle of Women’s Wednesdays and put on a weekend that ideally gets more women to actually show up and race bikes, and teaches them the difference between a points race and a scratch race, and teaches them, just some of the things that might be more intimidating for a beginner lining up to race.

Joan Hanscom:

Then we have the time to go into every week on a Wednesday and really spend some time doing mentored racing, doing mock racing. I just want to encourage, if you’re listening and you have bike racing friends who’ve always thought about, hey, I’d love to try racing on the track. I just don’t know much about it. This is a great opportunity. Particularly when we don’t know what’s going to happen with road racing. If you have female friends who have been thinking about the track might be cool, or I’ve always wanted to give it a shot, but I don’t know much about it. Encourage them to take part if you have daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s a very open and inclusive community. It’s a really great welcoming group of women and we would encourage anybody who’s a little bit curious about dipping their toe into the track racing waters to come out and try that, and it’s very exciting to me to try to continue the growth in that area.

Maura Beuttel:

Well, I mean, you’ll catch me there.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, Maura’s going to dip her feet in the bike racing waters this year, which is exciting, so we’ve already got one convert.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, I think it’s good and it’s important to have those different types of steps along. I obviously came up through a very traditional path of Pee-wee’s Air Products, BRL, so it was a very natural evolution as a kid to wind up as a bike racer. I definitely do love what we’re bringing to the track like Women’s Wednesdays and some of the other non-competitive programming that we have, because it gets more use out of a facility. Obviously, we are known as the premier racing venue in the nation, and probably in the world, because we do such a volume of high caliber racing, and that is our signature marquee.

Andy Lakatosh:

But it’s great to also have this diverse usage beyond just bike racing and it’s nice to get some of that cross pollination, not in the sense of like, if you’re going to participate at the track, you have to raise, but if you want to, I think we do an awesome job and this is just another bridge in between what was maybe a path, a river that seemed impossible for some people to keep building that up, because while we are super proud of our women’s numbers that we do have, especially on Friday nights and racing. You have to nurture that and keep it going, because I do want to see us fill out the track limit, both men’s.

Andy Lakatosh:

I would love nothing more than to have to say, oh, we’re going to have to [inaudible 00:13:16] our heats, or we’re going to have to move to just Cat 1s on Fridays, because we have too many men and women that want to race their bikes here week after week. That’s a great problem.

Joan Hanscom:

Absolutely. I think, one of the things that has come out of 2020, and it’s been discussed to death, I think on industry channels, but maybe we haven’t addressed it yet is, there are a lot of people who bought bikes in 2020, and they maybe didn’t buy a bike. Maybe they pulled their bike out of the basement and got it tuned up and started riding their bikes because everybody was looking for a thing to do outside, and it got to the point where you couldn’t even find a bike to buy. But what that means is there’s a lot of people out now with bikes and we can offer a service here.

Joan Hanscom:

We’re called the Valley preferred cycling center for a reason. It isn’t just about racing. It’s about being a center for cycling. One of the other type of community programs that we’re looking at developing is just a basic bike safety programming. We’re talking about running this in conjunction with the parks department, so it may not be common ride on the track. It may be, come learn your basic road safety skills. I know I ride on the road a ton and I’ve seen a lot of people doing some very unsafe things, riding on the wrong side of the road, just things that a basic bike safety course could probably help with a lot.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s another thing that in the community programming sphere we’re excited to explore and launch. We have a bike maintenance partner here at the track, so, can we get him to come out and do basic bike safety checks? There’s a lot that we can do for the community here particularly in this year of opportunity that says, hey, look, there’s a whole lot more people with bikes right now, what can we do to benefit that segment of the community? Hopefully, they decide that, yeah, this is a fun thing to do and I really dig my bike.

Joan Hanscom:

We see them more on local rides that leave out of the track. We see them in the stands watching the racing, but how do we integrate this great moment of opportunity with people having a new enthusiasm for bikes and bring them into our community? I think it’s a really exciting time.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, and I think, going, taking that, it’s trying to fill in another gap and another hole that maybe we’ve been missing in the past years. Again, that’s another lesson thing of 2020. We really had a lot of time not putting on 600 UCI events with 800 competitors in the month of June to really get into the nitty gritty of, okay, how can we squeeze more out of what is out there and what’s available? Stuff like the basic bike rodeo styles things, or the fact that we’re going to expand, try the track now into two different levels.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’ll have a two step try the track process that’ll run a couple Sundays throughout the season, and to help get those people that maybe did the bike safety stuff, really like riding, see the track and want to try it, a very, very basic beginner intro thing. Then something that leans a little more towards racing might not be for everyone, but the basic try the track was always very repetitive because you had a very green level of rider usually. This is a way to, for the people that maybe can’t come up for the Air Products programs two or three times a week during the summer, to get more experience before they start racing, hopefully this is a way that we can bridge that gap.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’m looking forward to just filling in all those holes, make it a really seamless process, that if you come out, hopefully in April, or anytime during the year, you just have one thing after another, after another to keep progressively building up and challenging yourself and getting more comfortable. Before we know it, we see you’re racing on a Saturday, Tuesday, and eventually a Friday.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. I think it’s just, like you said, it’s filling the holes in the ecosystem. It’s something I think that has worked really well for the men’s side of road cycling. If you’re interested in road cycling on the men’s side, there is literally a category for you to race. You start in Cat 5, and you have the Cat 4 evolution, you have Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1. You get your own separate fields. Then on top of that, you have age group master’s categories. I think that that is what makes that sort of passage through the sport easier. We’re starting to see more of that on the women’s side, where they’re starting to think about, how the categories break down so that you bridge those holes, inability, skill, whatever it is.

Joan Hanscom:

Seeing more of that. I think, if we can accomplish that here on the track, where there are those stepping stones, it’s just, instead of having to do this big six foot jump across a crater, you have a little bridge that goes from one spot to the other instead. I think that really drives more participation. It easier to advance, and so that’s really a big goal for us for 2021 is, how do we get people moving through our ecosystem successfully? Rather than having to say, “Okay, I’ve done one try the track.” That’s a mighty big jump to masters in rookies. Now, now we’re going to try to put in some stepping stones for folks.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that, that is a really important evolution. So, I’m excited that you’ve got your head wrapped around that and thoughts and plans for putting in those building blocks, rather than just saying, “Good luck, jump.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been work for me to get back to … Because of being at such a high level of the sport, to go back to, okay, where was I, and where are our athletes at. That’s one of the great things through coaching that you come to have to challenge yourself to remember, and that’s why it’s fun even for our younger elite athletes or some older junior athletes to coach again, and remember like, oh yeah, I remember learning to ride in Air Products.

Joan Hanscom:

Beginners mindset.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, and learning to ride a fixed gear. It’s always fun to see everyone just enjoy. It’s a good memory of how much fun this is supposed to be. There’s definitely some creative thinking that’s going into like our Air Products programs, and how to make that curriculum little more organized and a little more progressive and challenging in some ways. The big thing that I am considering with all the creation of what we’re doing is of course, like the COVID side of it. If you want to jump back to BRL for a moment, spring could be a little bit early to try and get that together.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yes, we have the benefit of high school sports are happening in some capacity, and we’re an outdoor venue, so that makes it a lot better. And we have a great track record and great safety protocols and stuff. But the big thing to remember is that a BRL finals is, we’re talking about potentially 130 kids inside the center of the track, which is far more than two soccer teams playing against each other at once. We’re not talking about 12 or 16 kids on the field. We’re talking about that per race.

Andy Lakatosh:

Then you have all the other kids still on the infield, parents that want to be in the stands, and that we want to have in the stands. That’s one of the coolest things about BRL, but at this point, it’s a consideration that we have to keep in mind. Like you said early on, Joan, with all this stuff, stay on top of our social channels, stay on top of the website, because when changes have to be made and pivots have to be made, like we’re ready to do it. We have plan Bs, plan Cs all the way down to Qs, Rs and Ss.

Joan Hanscom:

We learned a lot last summer about what works and what doesn’t if we have to implement it.

Andy Lakatosh:

If I had a dollar for every season, every alteration of a season schedule I wrote in the spring.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, I mean, again, we’re going to say it till we’re blue in the face here on the pod today, but everything we’re talking about does just come wrapped in that big giant caveat of assuming that the situation with COVID enables us to do all of this stuff, but again, very hopeful that it will, but asterisked. We’ve talked about the launch of the community programs, which I’m very excited about. Then that takes us quite nicely into the month of May, where we will hopefully kick off some racing.

Joan Hanscom:

I know Andy Taos has announced his masters and junior regional championships. For everybody who listens, Andy Taos, the legendary Andy Taos, who just a sheer legend in this sport and has done so much for this venue in particular, but the sport very broadly speaking. Andy’s back to run his junior regionals and masters regional championships in the beginning of May, because they already announced those dates.

Andy Lakatosh:

Juniors is the beginning of May, I believe, and then masters is that first weekend in June after Memorial Day, is what I’ve put into the calendar the other day.

Joan Hanscom:

Yep. Andy is going to be back with those regional championships, which is terrific. Again, I’ll say it on behalf of Andy, COVID permitting, but great to know that he’ll be back promoting his races early on, and then you’ve got a good plan for starting racing in May. Just broadly speaking, what are we looking at in May?

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, we’re definitely going to have a more diverse plan instead of races than we normally have. We’ll get to the Friday night stuff in a minute, but one of the big takeaways from the TTs, and the COVID year was that there’s definitely a hunger for more than just straight masters in rookies, or straight Tuesday night racing. With COVID limitations allowing, we’re going to start with TTs again, because I think that’s a great way, and we’re going to run those periodically throughout the year. Every couple of Saturdays we’ll have a TT, which is a great way people to bust out their race equipment, check where they’re at time travel-wise, and it will all be electronic timing with main sport like we’ve had.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’ll be live timing up on the website. That’s always been one of the biggest things coming from this track and going to say like a nationals is off-hand timing on a Tuesday morning in the wind without race equipment, and you hope that you’re going XYZ speed, and then you get to nationals and go, oh, oh no, that’s actually not the speed that I’m riding. We want to provide the opportunity for people to measure themselves accurately more often.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, so it’s the little touch points, right? It’s the periodic check-in. I think, particularly with something like a masters nationals here at home at the end of September, those touch points are going to be valuable. Much like last summer, we’ll give a shout out to Tom Maines. We’ll continue to have live track timing here all summer long for all of our events, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, which is terrific. But yeah, that live timing for the TTs is really nice, and it does provide, just like you said, that that opportunity to measure how the progress is going periodically throughout the season.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. We’ll do the same kind of thing where the age group best performances wraps up our TT for the year. Coincidentally, I’m going to set that right against masters nationals for any other age group athletes that want to come and try to have a crack at the age group best performances. Just to review with everyone real quick, age group best performances, the way that they’re different from say our track records, as our track records are kept … I modeled it off of what the UCI does, so the world records are for juniors and elites in XYZ events that are kept in the rule book and on the website, but the best … Everything masters category are called best performances.

Andy Lakatosh:

Whereas our track records can be broken anytime at one of our events with electronic timing and officials and everything else, the age group best performances, you’ll only get that one day a year on the age group best performance day to attempt those best performance times. It’s not in any time during the year, which makes it a little more fun and a little more challenging of …

Joan Hanscom:

No, it’s a target.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. It’s not just, oh, well, I’m having a good day. Let me go for it. It’s like, no, you got to be right on, on this one day to go get some of those records. Given some of the times that were put out last year, it’s definitely going to be difficult. It’s not going to be …

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. You look at a summer where that’s all people trained. I think we did see some stellar performances last summer that, if things are a little looser and freer over the summer and training is a little less focused because there’s more options of stuff to do, some of those times are going to be tough to beat.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, 100%.

Joan Hanscom:

It’ll be interesting to see. Yeah, that’s a great overview of what Saturdays are going to look like. Let’s talk a little bit more about potentially Tuesdays and Fridays.

Andy Lakatosh:

What’s going to happen with the very first weekend is we’re going to … It’s going to be a TT, and it’s going to butt up to this new Round Robin sprint tournament that we’re going to start doing, and then the Round Robin sprint tournaments are actually going to alternate in on Tuesdays. What the concept is, is that you’ll ride your 200 only at the TT the Saturday before the Tuesday. Then you will get grouped into groups of four of your closest competitors and you’ll sprint each person in that group once, still you’ll get three sprint rides.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s the cut past the early rounds of the sprints when there’s such a gap between the people that you’re racing in terms of speed and ability, and get down to just the best quality sprinting set. Every person that comes out to ride and do this training spring tournament effectively has three sprints that are all close in ability and speed. We’re going to pepper that in on Tuesdays to give our visiting sprinters and our local sprinters an athlete chance to really challenge themselves and do something a little different and get riders who have literally never raced on a Tuesday since they upgraded to come out and race on a Tuesday, just not in the traditional mass start sense of it.

Andy Lakatosh:

Then the rest of our Tuesdays will still be our traditional all UCI, or all USAC categories, one through five, juniors no gear restrictions in your race, your category. Masters in rookies, we’ll keep our masters categories. Some of them of those younger junior beginner, A&B categories. But I’m super excited for the spring tournament and getting that first one going in April and then seeing how they evolve throughout the year and have people come out and really make the most out of those.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, it’s a bit a nice bit of diversity in the programming as well, rather than sort of rotating through the same Tuesday night formats every week. I think it’s a nice injection of something new and different into the programming as well. I just want to also say we’ve been a full year without anybody doing mass start racing. People are going to be rusty, including staff on the production of racing. We haven’t produced a mass start race in over a year. I think all of us are going to … Athletes and staff together, officials, all of us, it’s going to be nice to have some ways to gradually swing back into that more traditional type programming as well as we all start to get used to how things run again.

Joan Hanscom:

Which takes us really, I think, to Friday nights and this departure from our traditional Friday night schedule. For people who’ve been following along on Fridays for a while, June is usually our traditional UCI month. There’s been a lot of things in the air this year. I mean, obviously we’re in Olympic year again. We’re in a repeat Olympic year. That factors into the thinking, the potential for international travel restrictions to still be in place. Also, the aforementioned, I don’t think it would be smart for us to go first Friday night of the year as UCI racing, just because again, nobody’s been doing any of that sort of thing.

Joan Hanscom:

So, we are pivoting our traditional schedule a little bit. We will have racing on Friday nights in June, fingers crossed, to see the aforementioned caveat about COVID. But we are planning on Friday night racing, kicking off in June as normal, but not leading off with our UCI block. Andy, take it from there.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. I think the first thing that we want to say is that we’ll get the full season announcement coming out early February. We’re still waiting on all of our final approvals from the UCI. We want to see if the world hopefully looks like it’s improving by the beginning of February, but we’ll be getting things up around then. I think another big thing to say, right off the top is, we want racing that has fans in the stands. 110%, that is what we are aspiring towards, and that applies more to our local community. Because, I mean, TTs are some of the most boring things in the world to watch, but we had no shortage of people that wanted to just come and watch bike racing this year and we look forward to getting that to that.

Andy Lakatosh:

Like you said, Joan, our traditional June coming out guns a blazing always worked really well when it was an Olympic year. Even last year, looking at holding our events in June, there were a lot of questions, there becomes a much smaller interest from the big international teams because we do get a lot of Olympic champions and medalists and people that will be going to the games. Even last year, looking at June events with late July Olympics, a lot of the teams, Canada, South American countries were … We’ll come down. We might actually not race. We might just come down for a training block for New Zealand and Australia and a lot of those countries.

Andy Lakatosh:

It was a much bigger lift because they didn’t want to pop halfway around the world, pop back over, and then have to go to Japan for the games. These are all things that we took into consideration with well, maybe June’s not our best time. That’s leaving. COVID out of it. If you roll the COVID aspect of it in, we start getting questions about what our UCI schedule is going to be. I started in October already. The emails start coming in and they just build from there. But typically, most people want to be booking their tickets for that type of stuff and committing to travel plans in March.

Andy Lakatosh:

If we think about where we were last March and where we’ll most likely be in terms of COVID and travel restrictions this March, booking tickets in March, $1,000 plus tickets for travel in June is not going to be very inspirational, let’s say, and have a lot of confidence around, do we think this is going to work? We looked at pushing back anyway, which of course, if we pushed back then, we’re … The closer we get to the games, there’s definitely an aspect of, we’re not going to get those Olympic athletes.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think, Joan, you and I sat there for a moment and said, well, there’s only 150 some track athletes that go to the games. There’s hundreds of other athletes, especially domestically that need UCI points, need racing. Just because the Olympics is happening, the world does not stop for all those development.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. All those Devo riders still need to be Devo in.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, and still want to be racing. Especially if you’re targeting or working at that kind of level, you want that July peak anyway. We looked at it and said, hell, let’s just run our UCI events the same time as the games. That is our plan for 2021, is that we’re going to go the same three weekends, double-header weekends as the Olympics from the 23rd until the 8th, I believe it is, and we’ll just run our biggest events then, and we’re going to do that because we feel that that’s when we’ll have our greatest chance of getting the international riders that we need for our country counts, which is, we can put on the greatest event in the world, but if we don’t have those five countries, we don’t get class one points, and that sucks for everybody.

Andy Lakatosh:

That is the biggest concern on our end for executing these events, but I’m confident in our ability to do that. I really like the name that we’ve come up with for the series. We’re going to take the series of UCI events this year and call it the T-Town Summer Games. We’re planning a little opening and closing ceremonies type of thing, a parade of nations to really showcase everybody that comes out and participates. I’ve already got schedules written, and I’m super stoked on some of the stuff we’re going to do there, some of the U23 and junior categories that we’re going to add in to boost points for those developing athletes.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think we’re still going to have awesome size fields and great competition, and really star studded fast athletes. I think, it’s going to give our domestic and local athletes a really great chance to punch up a couple level highers, and they could win. Eddie Dawkins and everybody else shows up and just …

Joan Hanscom:

Well, I think, just based on some of the conversations that have been taking place with with teams and federations, I think, yes, we’re not going to get the Tokyo athletes, but there are a whole lot athletes in the 2024 pipeline that I think we will see here because they’re federations, but to your point, still need them developing, still need them doing the work, and this is a great place for those athletes. It’s the opportunity to see the next gen come here this summer. I think that’s exciting. To your other point, it does give our local athletes a really great opportunity to continue to compete against the highest level, which is pretty exciting.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. Obviously, the UCI events will be a big peak in our year and a big thing that everyone will be targeting, but no, we are anticipating starting racing in June, and we’re going to build up the entire season towards those UCI events, obviously will be offered the 4th of July weekend. Elite and junior nationals is slated to be happening that time in Los Angeles anyway. But the thing that I really want to point out to everyone is, our UCI events, we put on for the points, for the athletes. We pay all those UCI inscription fees and all those officiating bills and all the timing bills for those 12, 16 hour days of racing, to get those athletes those chances, to get those points, and to have the exciting racing on the track.

Andy Lakatosh:

But bike racers love money. We do more money for track racing in a season than I’d be, very fair to say, probably any other track. In the theme of building into the year, we’re going to roll off those three weeks of UCI racing into our three biggest events. US Women’s Open, Keirin Revenge and Air Products, and then culminating with Keirin and Madison Cup as the final night, calling it the Robert Rodale challenge for the first time, which is going to be really fun and exciting. But if you’re planning to come and you have some extra time this day beyond your UCI points, stay for those races, because that’s when it gets really, really fun.

Andy Lakatosh:

Not that UCI racing isn’t fun, but I like racing when there’s going to be fireworks on and off the tracks.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. It’s got the DJ, you got the fireworks, you got the show, you got beautiful summer nights. Just as an aside, it’s nice here in the summer, so for people who are thinking about it, the summers here are beautiful. It’s going to be lots of racing opportunity. There’s great training around here. If you haven’t come to T-Town before, I’m putting in my plug for the area. Are you listening Discover Lehigh Valley? It’s a really nice place to ride bikes in the summer. There’s crit racing across the street. There’s beautiful roads everywhere to ride, and plenty of opportunity to race your bike here at the track and elsewhere.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s something. If you’re a bike racing enthusiast, it’s definitely something to put on your list to come experience for the summer.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, and talking about coming in an extended stays with the athletes, like we always have, we are going to continue to work with our housing providers and get athletes access to very awesome, comfortable housing out in Kutztown. We’re still finalizing those contracts and stuff, but athletes looking to come to the track and spend some time, we will throw up our athlete application, like we always do for athletes to contact us to get housing, but we’re going to do that a little bit later this year.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s not going to be a March 1 open type thing. We might be looking more at some time in April, and closing that around the end of may for athletes. But as always, fill that out, contact me directly alakatosh@thevelodrome.com. When you’re looking to apply to come and stay and get assistance from us, to minimize the cost to the athlete directly, the longer you stay, the better, and the more that you like to race, the better. Joan, you and I are 100% in accordance that full fields of racing make great racing, which makes energy, which puts fans in the stands, which then feeds back to the racers to want to race their bikes.

Andy Lakatosh:

It all starts with getting those people on track that want to race and want to race hard in big full fields. That’s definitely something that impacts our decisions and who we’re able to help be here the longest and stay the most. Another big thing that goes into selecting for me is, if you’re coming in from out of town and you have a coaching license, and you’re able to help a volunteer and coach one of our programs to work off some of your bill, that’s a huge part. That also goes hand in hand with shout to the local coaches.

Andy Lakatosh:

The more you get engaged, the more we help out, and the more your track pass can get paid and some stuff like that, plus it gets … The thing I always love most about coaching the community programs was you’re creating dozens of fans for you that come-

Joan Hanscom:

For yourself, right. Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

That come out and yell for coaching and coach Missy.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. It’s coach [Jinwei 00:41:58], coach Andrew. We did have some really great local coaches, Andrew Chu, Jinwei Tang, most notably last summer, Elsbeth, for sure. This makes fans out of your participants, and that’s an excellent point. And it’s great to recognize those local coaches who gave so much last summer as well, coaching those programs. But yeah, we definitely are always looking for good quality coaches to work in the programs and help build your fan base.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s looking like Friday nights. Hopefully, like you said, Andy, we’ll get the more detailed schedules up as soon as we get the sign-off from the UCI on our inscriptions and we start to have a better sense of just what’s going to be allowed and not allowed, but keep an eye out. That stuff’s going to go up as soon as we can, as soon as the UCI gives us their blessing.

Andy Lakatosh:

Certainly not holding onto it for anything.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

[crosstalk 00:43:01].

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Exactly. You just don’t want to put it out there and then the UCI comes back and request to change, or anything along those lines. As soon as we have those dates finalized and approved, we will move forward with that. Then that really takes us into September where we are looking at having masters nationals, which is great. Masters nationals, which was supposed to be here last summer is going to be here this fall, which is terrific and we’re excited to have that opportunity to have the masters nationals here in the fall.

Joan Hanscom:

Then, we’ll run a fall Velo Fest caveat on the tracks at resurfacing, which is the next point on my list. We are going to begin the process of the track resurfacing. For anybody who’s written on the Velo in the last couple of years, there’s a wobble and a crack in the intern three that we’re going to get fixed. Just generally, that is a maintenance thing that needs to get done periodically, and we are due for that this year. So, we know that, come the fall, we are going to bring in that track resurfacing project and we’ll know more about dates as we get closer.

Joan Hanscom:

But that is scheduled for this fall. Just to give everybody a heads up, that after masters nationals and the fall Velo Fest, we anticipate that the track work will begin. Again, more on that as we have the details, but it is something that people keep asking about and want to make sure they know yes, it is on track to have that resurfacing work done beginning in the fall of ’21.

Andy Lakatosh:

Just to make sure everyone understands what actually goes into resurfacing. In the spring, they will lay down a thin top coat that gives us this nice, new, pretty fast surface that has no cracks in it, and is really smooth and you can go really fast on. But in order to be ready for that, there’s so much prep work that goes into trying to grind out the bumps and repair some of those deeper cracks and really preserve the surface in the foundation so it doesn’t shift and so that we can last another 45 years with the same concrete laid.

Andy Lakatosh:

But that surface laying is very temperature sensitive and all the prep work has to be done before, and with snow and everything else over the winter, we have to start it in the fall because of how long it takes. It’s definitely not as simple as just waxing your car. There’s always something unforeseen that pops up. It is tough to look at another early fall closure effectively on our end, but it’s essential to what we need to get done for 2022.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. To that point, I’ve walked the track with the engineers and the contractors who are going to be doing the work. There are things that happen to buildings over time, including how the footings of the building settle into the earth. What you find is that, if you have these giant slabs of concrete, depending on how the building settles, you need to do things like create new joints in the track surface. So, you may have a giant slab of concrete in turn three that turns out it needs a joint, and it needs to become two giant pieces of concrete instead of just one big slab.

Joan Hanscom:

So, we’re going to be doing all of that work, cutting in new joints to accommodate settling. It is a lot of work, and a lot of it will also depend on when they get out there, after yet another winter, of winter impact on the track, how deep of the surface do they have to scrape off before they can put the new surface down? It is a very complicated process, and it’s sort of fascinating to walk around with the concrete guy and have him talk about the actual mix and blend of concrete. My brain was spinning when he finished talking about just all of the sophistication of the concrete science.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, and we’re such a pain in the butt because we are … Concrete is supposed to be poured flat. It is not supposed to be forward on an angle.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. It’s nice that we have people who are experienced in doing it, but it is a big job, which is why it gets done only like every 10 years or so, but yes, that is coming this year, folks. Some more on that as we know it, but I think that’s it, Andy. That’s our seasoned teaser. I think we’ve compressed a bunch of months into a very short timeframe here on the pod. But hopefully, it gives people a directional understanding of where we’re going and they get people stoked to come back.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, I’m super excited for 2021. Obviously, the season has been on our minds for months now, and as well has been in work for months. I’ve had many early mornings, creating this stuff and working out, trying to problem solve everything, and think about every response I’m going to get about what should be different in someone’s opinion, and trying to accommodate as much of that as possible, because we just want great racing and we want great ridership and a community that’s engaged and active and proud of what we do.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s definitely a real sense of pride for me being involved with the track and helping to create these great seasons. I look at 2020 as having been a great season, so I’m just excited for what 2021 will bring.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, absolutely, me too. We’re rolling into 2021 with some optimism, which is a nice way to feel. Yes, just that we will leave you with those words, stay tuned, because there’s more detail to come. With that, we’ll go to the official, this has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, please leave us a positive review. Like us, share us, subscribe to us, tell your friends to listen, because for us to keep bringing you these things, we need listeners, and so we thank you for those who have sat through our discussion today, and we hope you’ll join us again.

Joan Hanscom:

We have some more great guests coming up very shortly. Again, thank you for listening to the Talk of the T-Town with Andy Lakatosh, Maura Beuttel, and me, Joan Hanscom.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the talk of the T-Town podcast with host, Joan Hanscom and Andy Lakatosh. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode brought to you by B. Braun Medical Inc. Head on over to our website, thevelodrome.com, where you can check out the show notes and subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode.