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Pete Taylor: An Englishman in New York

Pete Taylor Star Track

Episode 17

“The racing becomes a byproduct but first and foremost, it’s fun.”



This week on Talk of the TTown, Joan and Andy sit down with Pete Taylor, the co-executive director of Star Track cycling from New York City, and they discuss how Pete got into cycling, Star Track, training during COVID, and fond TTown memories.


Star Track Cycling

Website: http://www.startrackcycling.org
Instagram: @@startracknyc
Facebook: @StarTrackCycling
Twitter: @startracknyc


Pete Taylor Star Track Cycling

Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk to 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 co-host, athletic director, Andy Lakatosh.

Andy Lakatosh:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. I’m your host, Andy Lakatosh, here with my co-host Joan Hanscom. And our guest this week is Pete Taylor, the co-executive director of Star Track cycling from New York City. Welcome, Pete and thank you for joining us.

Joan Hanscom:

Good to have you, Pete.

Pete Taylor:

Thank you very much. Nice to be here.

Andy Lakatosh:

So we’re very excited to get Pete on as he’s one of the… Star Track is one of the biggest programs in the country. Especially when it comes to getting kids on track bikes, that’s a private program. Most people will know you as the chief of Star Track and we’ll get into that plenty later. But if you don’t mind, could you tell us a little bit to start about your background in the world of cycling? But pre-Star Track. How you found it and wound up getting basically to the Star Track days?

Joan Hanscom:

I love always hearing about how other people got sucked into this little universe we’re in. How’d you get hooked?

Pete Taylor:

Well, my universe was completely different from yours. So it was a strange introduction. I mean, I started… Well you want to know where I came from before cycling or how I got into it?

Andy Lakatosh:

Well that’s my next question. My next question is where you came from before cycling.

Joan Hanscom:

Well let’s start there, then. Let’s do the whole origin.

Pete Taylor:

Getting ahead of myself again. So born and raised in London as everybody can hear from the strange accent. So I spent a long time in the security world. And I started off fighting drunks in pubs, and everybody knows about that. And ended up in the personal protection world, so what most people would refer to nowadays as a body guard. So, I spent a lot of years doing that. And when I met my lovely wife, Shelly, which was probably 25 years ago, I was working for the Saudi Arabian royal family. And also I was into aviation security. So, long story short I moved to America in 1997 and started specializing in aviation security, as far as business jets were concerned. And started working for Gulfstream, big private jet company. And protected their people around the world while they were doing business and so it was a very different thing that led me to America and eventually the cycling.

Pete Taylor:

And that was because we had kids and my son Billy was a bike nut and dragged me into the sport through family friends in England. And spent a long time working with him and helping him out. And we found a program called Star Track that we ended up joining. And what happened, really, was that I was just there as a dad and the director of the time was a lady called Deirdre, Deirdre Murphy Bader. She asked me if I would start to coach, which I did. And it turned out that I was pretty good at coaching. Who knew? And then went on to helping to run the program. And eventually, sadly Deirdre contracted cancer and when she got sick she asked myself and David Harrison, who’s one of my best friends now, to run the program. And I said Dave and I will run it. So even though I’m sort of, the face of Star Track often, and the strange voice of Star Track, Dave is, he’s the man that does all the work and makes everybody look good. So, that’s sort of the potted history of how I got into cycling.

Joan Hanscom:

I have to say I didn’t know that. It’s a super interesting story but it’s also not remotely surprising that that’s how you found yourself actually coaching. I mean, everybody who’s been here at T-Town knows that you pitch in, right? If you need a holder, you’re the first guy that we look to for help, right? You’re just there and you’re so part of the thing that if I had been running Star Track, I probably would have picked you too. I would have been like, “Oh here’s the guy that’s reliable that we can count on.”

Pete Taylor:

I had a time where I used to travel around the world, I mean literally everywhere around the world you can ever imagine. So a lot of time I would come home and I would have some down time so that’s how that started. And then when they said, “Would you take it on?” I went, “yeah, of course. But I only want to do it part-time because I’ve got to carry on doing my regular work.” And we all know how that ended, now.

Andy Lakatosh:

So it’s kind of funny because my dad got roped into being way too involved in everything we did, and it was always 100% my fault, right? I remember being in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and the guy that was the troop leader was about to retire, just wanted to step down. And my hand shoots up, “my dad will do it!” And then same thing with FCCC, right? So before, we always had East Coast fellow and Future Champion Cycling Club (FCCC). And that was the team that collected everyone, locally. Kind of similar to how Edge seems to do it now except it wasn’t a coaching, it was just a team, just a place to belong. Or like team T-Town does, right? It was the place you went to out of BRL and stuff. There was a team split and so the guy in charge was going over here and same thing again, I put my hand up, “well my dad will do it.” Right? Yeah so it’s funny how we always drag our parents into it.

Andy Lakatosh:

But I love the background of Pete doing the private security stuff. I always thought that was so funny. And I also commend him, not just for being a badass and having a lot of fun stories that we share on long drives up to Canada and down to find warmer weather. But mostly because he went from flying private jets everywhere, to flying commercial. And I commend you on not losing your shit because I’ve never flown private, but I can tell you if I did, I would choose to walk everywhere before I would get back on a commercial plane.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s funny.

Pete Taylor:

Well yes and no, because private is incredible and if you’ve done it, you’ll never want to do anything else again. Unfortunately, a lot of times, in the career that I had to be there before everybody else arrived. So I would fly some really sketchy regional airlines in South America to get somewhere before the airplanes arrived. And so I had bit of luck. I had a bit of luck. But now I have to fly the same van up and down in the space.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Now it’s flying sprinter-style.

Pete Taylor:

Exactly.

Andy Lakatosh:

So it’s not all champagne and caviar on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, is it?

Pete Taylor:

Not anymore.

Andy Lakatosh:

Oh, good stuff. So moving back to Star Track, obviously our local listeners and stuff that see you guys come out. There’s a mob of blue that comes into all the fields when you guys bring the Star Track kids down or when you guys are at the track and have a training session. But for those who are maybe listening outside the area or aren’t really in tune with the track scene and stuff, that don’t know what Star Track is. Could you share some information on the background and organization of Star Track? Obviously we know you became involved with it, you were lucky enough to get lassoed into it. But just the location size, the fact that you guys are in New York City, and talk about some of what you guys do, because it is a massive behemoth of a program. And you don’t always see that from the outside.

Pete Taylor:

I think it started out with four or five riders? So Star Track started in 2004. In New York City we’re trying to make a bed for the 2012 Olympics. So they had a track and someone said… I think someone told him it was probably a great idea to have a junior program and it looks good in the eyes of the Olympic selection committees and things like that. So they asked a guy called John Campo, who is a very prominent regional racer at the time, if he would be involved and he asked Deirdre, Deirdre Murphy Bader. And Deirdre was… She had won massive roads and did the Olympics for Ireland in 2000. So she was sort of like the local face that could ride in and was really, very dedicated.

Pete Taylor:

And so Deirdre roped in Delroy Walters and Delroy was a massive track champion who lived in Brooklyn. And Delroy is an enigma. He will not tell anybody his age. Some of us actually know but we’re sworn to secrecy. And Delroy is still with the program to this day. So that was in 2004, so that’s pretty amazing and he has seen every kid come and go. It’s been an amazing thing. So, as I said, we started off with probably about four or five kids. Real sort of ragtag operation and it just grew. It grew and grew. So one of the things that we really wanted to do was make it a program for everybody, for all the under-resourced kids in New York City, the kids that have got no idea about team sports and didn’t want to deal with that, or whatever it was. But it was just a matter of bringing it in to New York, bringing cycling to these kids, introducing them to track life and we had a velodrome. And the velodrome, it’s a bit ropy but it’s good, and it works.

Pete Taylor:

When Dave and I took it over we were… I think we were about 70 kids and me. The wait list was 2-3 years long of trying to get into the program. And so we really just sort of tried to push out the amount of days we had, we increased the coaching staff, we would age kids out at 14, which we hated. We didn’t want to do that, we didn’t want to see any kid go without it if they wanted to race, or carry on so we introduced the race team which is where the blue uniforms came from. And just sort of worked really, really hard to try and increase it and now we’re… I think we’re over 130 kids, every week from April until November. We’re open Monday through Thursday and Saturday mornings and we encourage… Racing is a byproduct, for us. It’s great, we all love it, the coaches love it, the kids love it. But it really is a byproduct of what we do and so… First and foremost, we’re a community program and that’s how it should be.

Andy Lakatosh:

So, a couple of things that… well first of all, John Campo. Like that’s the name that [inaudible 00:12:25] because he was racing here in T-Town all the time and had that Kissena kit. And we’re still friends on Facebook, and I can bank on him every year on my birthday, he will send you the video of him playing the guitar to say happy birthday to you. I always expect that and I always expect Alfred Nash to wish me a “congratulations on completing another lap around the sun.” Right? Like there’s just certain people that, it’s-

Joan Hanscom:

I love those birthday wishes from John Campo, though. They do make your day.

Andy Lakatosh:

I know.

Pete Taylor:

Yeah, he’s good. He’s good. Yeah he’s a good guy.

Andy Lakatosh:

I was wondering, do you guys have a… Do you know the number off the top of your head of how many total kids have passed thought the program since 2004? I know you said it’s 130 in the program actively. But geez, I guess that number would be huge.

Pete Taylor:

Yeah, about I think somewhere over… At this point I think it’s somewhere over 12, 13 hundred kids.

Joan Hanscom:

Wow. That’s amazing.

Andy Lakatosh:

Wow.

Pete Taylor:

Yeah, it’s been great. And I think, really our biggest goal was just to bring cycling to everybody. And obviously, now with diversity being at the forefront in 2020, we always said that we wanted to bring cycling with zero barriers. Regardless of social status, regardless of gender, whatever it is, and make it free. And that’s probably what people don’t really know about Star Track is that it’s free. It’s 100% free and we don’t charge for the coaching, we don’t charge for the uniforms. They get uniforms upon completion of their third semester at Star Track. So once we know they’re there, their commitment, we’ll commit to them. Helmets are free. Bike usage is free. Coaching is free.

Pete Taylor:

And so really, that’s just been our thing. Especially with females, we all really, really wanted to increase the percent of females that we have in the program so we brought in some more female coaches. We wanted to make the girls feel a lot more comfortable and we succeeded pretty much. We actually ended up, at one point during the year, god knows we’ve lost so many years now… Probably in 2019, we had 50/50 girls and boys. And now we’re at 40/60, I think.

Joan Hanscom:

Wow. That’s been a big goal of ours as well. And this year we reached 70/30 and it felt real good. And I know we can do better. I know we can grow in that space and that matters so much to me, personally. And it’s amazing to hear somebody actually hit the 50/50. It’s a good thing to dangle out there in front of me.

Pete Taylor:

It’s a great thing. It’s a good achievement and we were really proud of it and as I’ve said I think… I know you guys have a lot of female coaches and that makes all the difference in the world. We did a girls-only session. It didn’t matter if there was two or three girls that turned up. They still got the same amount of attention and coaching and time on the track, whatever it was. And they could do it at their own pace and how they felt comfortable. And they didn’t have any of the boys looming over them and the peer pressure of that and everything else that goes with it. The girl’s session became one of the favorite sessions for us to do. And so the Monday afternoon session was just girls only and no boys, and obviously you had to have female coaches and it worked really well. Very well.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I’m a big believer in that. We’re pretty excited, we’re launching a women’s weekend this year for that same reason, right? The beginning of March we’re going to do women’s only programming really to transition out of-

Andy Lakatosh:

Beginning of May.

Joan Hanscom:

Beginning of May, sorry.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, sorry.

Joan Hanscom:

To transition people out of-

Andy Lakatosh:

There will still be snow on the terrain in March.

Joan Hanscom:

We won’t have cleared the track, that’s true. There’s going to be snow forever. Yeah, we’re going to do it so we can sort of give them that transitionary step from women’s Wednesdays into something more race focused in that exact environment you’re talking about, right? Where you feel free to ask the questions that might have been the hurdle from you signing up for a race, where you really get to practice what a scratch race is or whatever the different type of race is, in a way that just a bit more open-feeling. I think it’s really important for how women learn versus how men learn. I think there’s different learning styles involved. I don’t think it’s different ability, right? And I don’t think it’s different capacity, I think it’s just a different style. And I think sometimes that creating that opportunity is really, really key.

Pete Taylor:

I agree. I think once the women just feel that comfort, then the… I mean, for us, we’ve never advertised a day in our lives. It’s all word of mouth. Same as you. The kids go to school and they and say they’ve had this fantastic, pleasant experience, and “it’s been really good and I had loads of fun.” And all these different girls will meet up and all of a sudden now you’re growing. And it’s the same with anything. Most people know that where we’re situated in Queens is on the edge of Plushing, which is a really predominantly Asian-American community. So we get tons of Chinese kids and the majority of the reason is because they all go to school and tell their friends and then it’s the same with the girls. And it’s the same with the African-American boys and girls. As long as it’s a comfort and feels good to do, they’re having a good time, they’re being seen, they’re being heard. It’s a win-win, really, for us.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. And I think fun matters so much, right? You have to keep it fun.

Pete Taylor:

Obviously. Everything. Everything. Because as I said, the racing becomes a byproduct but first and foremost, it’s fun. If we’re going to do cone drills where kids are riding around cones, there might be some stupid British coach that’s running up and down with one of the cones on his head. And the kids have got to chase him and get it off his head. They’re lucky enough he’s fat so the kids catch him.

Joan Hanscom:

You’re funny. Yeah, but it’s so true though, right? It has to have that element that breaks the stress, that makes it something competitive, but fun-competitive. Not competitive serious, like a heart attack competitive. And people will come back when they’re having fun.

Pete Taylor:

Yeah and then once we do that then the responsibility is there, and the team-building, and everything else follows suit. It’s not rocket science, it’s just lets go and give these kids a good time. And it’s a disciplined environment, it has to be because of the safety. I’m big on discipline, I know. But the first thing that happens for a kid that turns up at Star Track is that they line up in the parking lot, because we haven’t got the facilities that you guys have. So they line up in the parking lot, in line. And once they’re there, they’re there with their helmet and their helmet is their responsibility. So we tell every kid, “this is your helmet, this is yours to keep and yours to take home. But if you don’t bring it, whose fault is it? It’s not your mom’s fault because she didn’t have the car that day and dad had the car to go to work. It’s your responsibility.” So the kids learn that and the first that happens is, they have to shake our hands. The kids shake the coaches hands to say it and say hello. They’re disciplined.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s awesome.

Andy Lakatosh:

See and I’m glad that this went here because this was something I thought of and wanted to bring up, right? We’re talking about fun and we’re talking about keeping it light, and stuff like that, but what I think is one of the greatest things about Star Track, and this is one of the things that Pete and I connected over and got along really well over as friends, is just the culture that you set up. And I specifically wanted to talk about because you brought up waiting to give the jerseys until they’ve been in for three semesters.

Andy Lakatosh:

And I wanted to bring up the handshake thing because I think that’s huge and I actually didn’t know the helmet responsibility thing because when we’re talking about like… We think about bikes and it’s a competitive, if it’s on a velodrome, we think competitive, right? There’s not a whole lot of people that go to a track and say, “I just want to ride laps on a big concrete treadmill.” So we instantly think competitive and I think it’s very easy to, when you get kids into a program, to start fast tracking the like… Okay, am I getting faster? Am I getting better? Am I going to win the next race?

Andy Lakatosh:

And I think the base underneath that that actually makes them a good person and a good coachable athlete is when you teach them stuff like, your helmet is your responsibility because when you get to the elite end, what that turns into is, your garment is your responsibility. Your training log feedback is your responsibility. It’s not mine, it’s not the other guys. It’s not, “oh, I was busy today.” You don’t have your helmet, you don’t ride. You don’t do your feedback, you really didn’t complete the day of coaching correctly. And I love the culture items that you guys have and I really wanted to call attention to that because I think that is one of the things that makes your program special. It might not result in the greatest number, a million national championships per year. But I think what you’re doing with the kids and what you’re teaching them is going to have a much longer-lasting impact on them than whether or not, what color the medal is at nationals.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, it’s like the NHL, right? The handshake after winning and losing a game, it just cultivates a different attitude of respect, right? So it doesn’t matter if you’re the fast one on the team or the slow one on the team, it matters then, that we all shook hands and we all respect each other on and off the field of play. And that matters, particularly now to cultivate a climate of just mutual respect. That, “hey everybody’s out here doing the thing. We’re all having fun and it doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow, relatively speaking to the group. It just matters that you’re out here having fun.” And that handshake says a lot. That, to me, is one of the things that I love about hockey versus some of the other sports. They all line up, they all shake hands after they got kicked in the teeth, right? You just lost the Stanley cup, you have to shake hands.

Pete Taylor:

I love that.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh. But it matters a lot, which is an interesting thing like-

Pete Taylor:

Some of the roughest sports do that. I was a rugby guy when I was a kid and that’s one of the things that, you kick each other’s teeth in all the way through the game, but at the end of it, in rugby, every team is applauded off by the opposing team.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that matters. That’s respect. I think that’s a very important thing, which leads us to a question about COVID, right? We weren’t able to shake hands this year. It was a hard year. How did you guys fair through programming through this past year?

Pete Taylor:

Probably the toughest year we ever had, like everybody else. The big thing that we tried to do was to keep kids engaged. So obviously like everybody else in the world, zoom. Zooms with indoor training sessions, everybody’s at home. Yeah we would go around and we would drop off trainers to kid’s houses and leave them outside the front door and that sort of stuff. And bikes if they needed bikes. And sort of trying to get everybody involved. Some people don’t understand that the Star Track is actually run with the blessing of the New Yoke City Parks Department. The New York City parks owns the velodrome, similar to you. And to use it privately you have to have a permit so we get permits for free from the Parks Department because we’re sort of in arm with them.

Pete Taylor:

So we could not go anywhere near the track, even though it’s an outdoor track, we couldn’t run any sessions because we weren’t permitted to run those sessions. So as COVID went on and then Pennsylvania started releasing or expanding its rules of who could go where and when, we sort of tried to get kids together but just in a really sort of social distanced environment. Some kids went out on road rides in PA, some other kids went out and rode the kid course across the street from the track. And this just is the ones that really had the ability and the wherewithal to get to train.

Pete Taylor:

Once the Parks Department released permits out to people, it all had to be done with… I’d imagine the same as with anybody else, we had a COVID schedule protocol that we have to work to. We did the sessions but it was socially distanced, it was obviously everything was cleaned, the kids had to clean their own bikes after each ride. We then went and cleaned them again. But there wasn’t as many kids allowed to be in the session and the session was done a little bit differently.

Joan Hanscom:

That was hard having to put limits on each-

Pete Taylor:

It was really hard. It was really hard. We were able, on one occasion, to rent out the track at Valley Preferred which was a fabulous thing. We got all the kids, or got some kids in the race thing together. They were able to come and really just blow off some steam at the track and it was really just fantastic. And then the restrictions came back in again and we couldn’t do a lot more. Some people know that I bought a house near T-Town. I loved it so much I had to buy a house there and it’s loosely referred to as the track house. So some people go to crack houses and give all their money to them, I have a track house and give all my money to the people that come there.

Joan Hanscom:

I know it’s hard for us, we had… And you referenced earlier having a waiting list. We had to turn kids away from the programs this year because of those COVID size restrictions on group gathering size. And I hated that. I really hated having to turn kids away from programs, particularly in a year where they probably needed a program and an outlet more than ever, right? And it felt awful to turn kids away. I’m hopeful that this year we won’t have to turn kids away. And I’m hopeful that this year, because so many kids did get bikes, and so many parents did discover bikes, I’m hopeful that this year we’ll see a bunch more kids coming into the program so we won’t have to turn them away.

Joan Hanscom:

We won’t have to run in that really restricted way. They’ll still be restrictions in place, we all know that 100%, right? We all know that this isn’t magically going away come warm weather. But it was really a struggle to have to turn kids away last year. It felt bad, yeah. But it was great to see your kids here when they were here and coming down and getting on the track and being part of some energy, right?

Pete Taylor:

Well that’s sometimes, and it’s the same for us, sometimes the hardest thing is to… is that we’re doing some stuff for some of the kids but not other kids. And sometimes we’re forced to allow the ones that have the ability and the resources to get to Pennsylvania to do that. And there’s other kids that haven’t got the resources to get to PA. We’ve literally gone to races, masters, and rookies out of state where some of the kids take the bus. And we’ll meet at bus and bring them because we didn’t have the ability just to drive them from home. Now we’ve recently, in the last year, we actually got a grant from Rafa and that allowed us to buy a mini-bus. So we got a 15 seat bus that has changed everything, really. We can get kids to and from the track, we don’t have to rely on parents, or control the carpool and that’s helped a bunch. So it’s really-

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, Andy and I had a call yesterday with Community Bike Works, which is an organization here that I have wanted to do more and more with since I got here. And that piece of the puzzle, of how to get kids 12 miles from Allentown to the track is the biggest hurdle. It is absolutely the biggest hurdle for us to overcome and in COVID it was even worse because you couldn’t put people in a car. And I’m really excited about that in that Andy and I have come up with, I think, a plan to bring our coaches to the kids instead of the kids to the coaches this year. But that transportation piece is so hard. Like how do we crack that code? It’s tricky.

Pete Taylor:

At one point, in the early years, even before my time there was an agreement with us and New York City parks that we could use some of their buses and things like that but insurance issues and non-employees, all that stuff. It became such a murky water there that it just couldn’t be done in the end.

Joan Hanscom:

Right and safe sport considerations and all of it.

Pete Taylor:

Exactly. Everything like that now is so… Safety as that is. I’m probably one of the biggest fans of safety. I look at it as a great thing rather than restrictive, but it is restrictive.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, for good reason but-

Pete Taylor:

For good reason.

Joan Hanscom:

For good reason.

Pete Taylor:

It’s a challenge but we get there and obviously if the COVID restrictions get lifted, I think, then the tracks, I think, is going to explode. I really do. I think us, you guys, we’re all going to go busier than we’ve ever been.

Joan Hanscom:

I hope you’re right, Pete.

Pete Taylor:

I hope so too. What we need is flood lights. Because we can only go as long as it’s light.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah as long as the big flood light in the sky works.

Pete Taylor:

But I think we’re all on the same page in, our goal is pretty simple. We want to make healthy, happy kids. We want to make, and I know Andy feels this way because we’ve had this conversation, we actually want to make people just appreciate being on a bike. And in 20 years time, if we’ve made bike enthusiasts, that’s great. They don’t have to be Olympic champions, just be someone who enjoys riding bikes. Whether it’s a sport or whether it’s a hobby. It’s-

Joan Hanscom:

I agree with that completely. I mean, I think that you can play all kinds of sports when you’re a kid and you can take all kinds of valuable lessons away from sport when you’re a kid, but bikes can be for life. And football is not for life and bikes are. And if you can cultivate that forever, type of thing, it just gets the circle rolling, right? Then you have a parent who puts their kids in bikes and it just grows and multiplies. We share that goal. That’s all I want it to be here, right? I want it to be fun. Andy wants it to be elite bike racing. I like the elite bike racing too but I want it to be fun on bikes.

Andy Lakatosh:

No it’s… See so what’s funny is I’ve always said every junior that we coach I tell them and their parents, I said, “my greatest success as a coach is to a young athlete, will be if in 10, 15, 20 years time, you still like a bike, right?” Because there have been many days where I do not like a bike at all and I wanted to be nowhere near it. So I said, “if you just like a bike and you don’t look at it as this torture device that someone’s forcing you to go ride.” And I said, “second, if you are an employable adult who is organized and knows how to work hard. If that’s what you get out of this is that you still like being around bikes, and you’re an employable person, that’s my greatest success as a coach.” And that’s why I don’t… Like yeah when we’re lining up to race and when we’re training on a daily basis, we’re training to win. We’re not training to get second.

Pete Taylor:

I know. Absolutely.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s definitely what they get when they come out of it. I did not learn my work ethic from school, I learned it from riding a bike and being pushed within that space so.

Pete Taylor:

But you understand the work ethic. And this is what we hope to get out of this. This goes for all, New York and Pennsylvania, and also some of the other great programs around the country. Jerry Baker, that’s very similar to us. They’re great. CCOP. All of those other programs. If we promote health, wellness, and churning out healthy and happy adults with a good work ethic and people to understand dedication to something and the value of team, it can only be a good thing.

Andy Lakatosh:

100%. Yeah, we’re all very much on board with that one. I did want to go back though, because I thought this was really interesting, and get a little deeper into it. You said everything with Star Track is free. As also a non-profit on our end, there is nothing that is free, right? There is nothing about the economics of it that makes sense and especially when you get into the track world it makes even less sense. Because now you have a venue to maintain and upkeep, and staff to pay, and there’s no money in it. And the field sizes are small so unless we want to go to charging Iron Man-level entry fees of $800 for a 5K scratch race, we are not going to turn a profit off of just the execution of bike racing.

Andy Lakatosh:

Now, you guys are not only a non-profit within the cycling space, and the track space. But then you also went and made it more complicated by not picking just one area of the sport to focus on like saying, “oh, we’re just going to do grassroots or oh, we’re just going to do elite racing.” You said, “we’re going to do all of it. We’re going to do the whole spectrum, top to bottom.” And there are a lot of people out there that have the same dreams of doing that same kind of thing but usually it doesn’t make it very far off the ground, right? Like you can list off your hand the number of programs that really do it successfully within this country. And you run one of the most successful, if not the most successful, especially for track. And on this side of the country, absolutely.

Andy Lakatosh:

But I think a lot of people probably assume that the magic behind it, because you guys are in New York City, is that there’s some magical pot of gold hiding in somebody’s pocket that just dumps out continuously and funds everything. And like you said, I know that the track crack house, that is you. You are that pot of gold for everyone that walks through. I was wondering if you’d be wiling to share some of the insight into what the fundraising process… Because we’ve talked about it a number of times, what that process is actually like because Jeff Bezos is not lining up to sponsor grassroots track programs. If he was, we’d be doing great. But if you could share some of what your guys’ approach to that is.

Pete Taylor:

So, yeah I suppose really from the day Dave and I took the program over, I think the first thing that I really wanted to do, and this is sort of bizarrely the opposite of what we are, I really wanted to make Star Track corporate. And give it an identity. So that, obviously the polo shirts, and the uniforms and everybody, every coach had to do that. And I really had this vision that we sort of become this program that we can… that looks professional, that looks good. And someone told me recently that we are the goldfish swimming in the shark tank with a fin strapped to our back, because we look like we are big, but we’re not. And that’s all. That sums that. Our budget is quite big. We spend a lot of money in a year. And it’s very, very tough to get that. I’m not going to get into the numbers, but we really don’t have any large, big sponsors. So everything, whether it’s a $50 donation, a $10 donation, or a $10,000 donation, is as important as the other. And that’s my most important thing, that everybody plays a part in this.

Pete Taylor:

So our fundraising is that we’ve created this program and this idea of what we do. And I think that we really try to push the impression, and it’s the reality, that we are a program that helps kids. And we are a program that tries to excel in sports endeavors. We are a program that would love to make the next New York City Olympian on track, since Nelson Vails. We would love to do all of that. And I think that comes across. One of the biggest reasons is social media. And social media has helped us tremendously in fundraising. We do a gala dinner every year, which is one of the toughest things that we have to do. It’s easier to sort of do an online auction of stuff that people have donated. If I have a jersey signed by Andy Lakatosh, I might get myself-

Andy Lakatosh:

Not getting much for it, but. Exactly.

Pete Taylor:

Couple of old washers and a bucket. But anything like that, we’ll try auction stuff, we’ll try to just generate as much interest and as much favor with everybody we can that they sort of look at us. And obviously with social media we’ve got a platform with people to see you. If you do interviews then with Star Track, they can look on Facebook, they can look on Instagram, Twitter, and see what we are and what we’re about. And I won’t lie, pictures of smiling kids helps. It really does. Every day of my existence as a co-director of Star Track has an element of fundraising to it. And it is the hardest job that we do. And we’re banging the drum and beating the bushes every day to just try and get whatever we can in terms of money. If we’ve got to apply for grants, whatever it shall be.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, that was the big thing that I wanted to have you share was that it’s not a big backer, right? It’s all the little stuff and it’s a constant-

Pete Taylor:

Oh no, we’ve really struggled. We’ve really struggled. And as I said, we’re the goldfish with a shark fin strapped to its back. We are struggling on a daily basis trying to get the money to make this happen. And then all of a sudden, we get this new idea that you want to drive kids to California so they can go out to Nationals. Yeah and I think that’s probably, you back full circle to what we are, it’s the people.

Pete Taylor:

If you say, “okay, well we need to drive to California non-stop.” The first person to put his hand up is David Harrison. “I’ll do it!” We need to go and do a training session in one of our containers in 15 degree weather in the parking lot, in Kissena, in January. How are we going to do that? Dave says, “don’t worry, I’ll do it. I’ll get some old carpet and we’ll carpet the inside of the container. And we’ll put six kids at a time, and the other six are in the van warming up, while the other six are putting in their effort, and then swap over.” So it’s all about people. So we struggle every day, but we’ve got fabulous, fabulous people around us. And so as long as we’ve got that, we’ll keep on trying to generate whatever money we can generate, then we’ll keep going. As long as we don’t get too big of an idea and we don’t lose all the money. We try to do what we’re capable of at only one time.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s great and I think it’s awesome for people to hear that reality of it, right? The same with elite cyclists and stuff. What does it take? What’s the magic? There is no magic bullet, just do the work. Just keep doing the work.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. It’s hard work.

Andy Lakatosh:

One thing I did want to talk about it is with having your home track. You still use T-Town for great volume program even when everything is open and running and I was wondering how you see T-Town fitting in? Do you see it as a second home for Star Track in a sense?

Pete Taylor:

Oh, definitely.

Andy Lakatosh:

A fair amount of the elite team is based in T-Town. Well they’re scattered all over the country now but some of them are based in T-Town. I was just wondering what you… how you view T-Town?

Pete Taylor:

Definitely a second home. Kissena’s track is our home. Yeah, some people call it “old lumpy”. It’s the bumpiest, roughest track that you’ve ever ridden on. And then we’ve got T-Town. So T-Town, for me, is the natural progression, it’s the next step for a lot of our riders. Now some of our riders that have never heard of a velodrome before they come to Star Track, a majority of them haven’t. They’ll ride at Kissena and then we’ll have the ability to bring them to T-Town. And that changes a lot of things for a lot of people. So it opens their eyes, first of all. Then they go, “wow, this is awesome!” So they’re in awe. There’s grandstands. There’s flags flying. It’s a big, smooth, beautiful track which the steepest banks you’ve ever seen. And it’s a completely different world. And you’ve got restrooms. We have to pay for just one of ours, really expensive. We have to pay for porta potties and then god forbid kids have to change in a porta potty but that’s what we have.

Pete Taylor:

T-Town is a natural progression to sort of being, further into the sport, if you like, for a lot of these kids. And because of the proximity and two hours for some people… If I was actually being heard in England right now, they’d go “two hours? Two hours away? That’s crazy. That’s so far away.” And I’m like, “welcome to America. Two hours is nothing.” It is easier to get to. The people that can drive, can drive there. People can go on a bus to T-Town from the Port Authority in Manhattan which is really easy. And I know a lot of the local racers, from Kissena, they want to turn up on a Tuesday and they don’t want to deal with the traffic and things like that. They’ll get on a bus and come to the track to race on a Tuesday night, which is pretty cool.

Pete Taylor:

So yeah, it’s definitely our second home, it feels like it. We love the people there. Everybody is really friendly and nice. All the different programs and teams that work out of T-Town, all the TRL kids, the elite team, edge cycling, everybody, you’re all really friendly and it’s been a really great symbiotic relationship. It’s great.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well we are very happy to have you guys and you’re definitely part of the T-Town regular and T-Town family, right? You’re one of the programs that instantly comes to mind when we talk about it. Oh like, “who races and uses T-Town?” Star Track’s right up there at the top of the list. So you and I, before we met, were actually at the same event, right? We were both at the London Olympics. I was on the field just helping with Trinidad and you were in the stands. You’ve seen London Olympics, World Cups, Six Days, Manchester Revolutions, when they existed, been to T-Town. How do all of those compare to T-Town Friday night, and what is it from your perspective that really makes a Friday night in T-Town so special?

Pete Taylor:

I don’t know. Okay so, all those big events that I’ve coached at and been a spectator at, the majority of them were coaching which has been nice. And they’re all really intense. The intensity level is really high. I mean, you both know that. And it’s very serious, everybody’s got a lot on the line. And in Europe the atmosphere is great, everything is great. But there’s something about T-Town, to me, that is kind of indescribable. It’s got an essence to it. So I like to sort of… if I’m trying to describe it to people in the UK, friends of mine that race in Europe, I’ll say it’s like small-town America takes on the world. And I love it. And I think that there’s an atmosphere of it that…

Pete Taylor:

It’s obviously the showcase, for me, for American track cycling to try to get on par with the rest of the world. It’s where the young talent is showcased, and trying to qualify and everything else. And it’s a fantastic thing but for me, it’s like this sort of, this weird package of putting it all together on the one night. It’s got the atmosphere of sort of a local football game with all the parents there and everything else. But it’s also got the ability to sort of bring the world’s best to a small town in Pennsylvania. And I think the atmosphere and the riding and the competition is fantastic. There’s an amazing amount of comradery with it, even with the international riders. I’ve made some great friendships there with the international guys, and it’s really good.

Pete Taylor:

But I think that there’s a certain feel about Friday nights that everybody should come and try. This is my plug for T-Town, ladies and gentlemen. Everybody should come to T-Town on a Friday night and take it in. I did, and before I had athletes that were good enough to race at T-Town on Friday, I came here with my son because we would be here the next day for masters and rookies. And we used to watch the races on Friday night and it was fabulous. It was just the greatest thing to be able to just sit there in the stands on a warm summer’s night with a beer and a hot dog, watching some of the world’s best just rocketing around the concrete. Just great. It was just a fabulous, fabulous thing.

Joan Hanscom:

I’m down with that. It is like the night here is so special like when you’re at the track and you look up at the sun setting and it turns that really cool pink, orange color and it’s warm out and the track is fast. It’s so cool.

Pete Taylor:

Yeah. Yes. And then the big days where the firetruck’s out with the biggest flag I’ve ever seen in my life and you hang it from the ladder. It’s just like, “hell yeah!” Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

I love that. That’s where we should end, right? We should end with, “hell yeah!”

Pete Taylor:

Hell yeah. Happy end for everybody. Another thing, we’ll end when you want but I will say this. When I’m at my house, and I’m sitting there and have a cup of tea in the morning and the edge team flies by one way and everybody waves. And then like the Gotham guys are going, and then you see the Kiwis, or the Trini’s, or the Dutch team, or the Brits. All these crazy, fantastic cyclists all riding past your house, and then all the local guys are riding as well, it’s just this sort of subculture of riding in Trexlertown, PA that is so addictive. It’s fabulous.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s our little secret here, right? It’s the secret enclave.

Pete Taylor:

It really is. It doesn’t happen anywhere else and it’s a really cool thing.

Joan Hanscom:

It is super cool here. Well-

Andy Lakatosh:

All right. Well, last, last question from me real quick because Pete and I have done too many late-night drives back from Canada together, talking about such random stuff. And we talk about playlists for T-Town and songs that must be played but it’s funny because the other people that are most passionate about it are also British, like there are other [inaudible 00:52:25]. I hear about it all the time. But what is your all-time favorite, most T-Town song?

Pete Taylor:

I suppose that’s the song that, as soon as you hear it, it just blasts you back to warm, summer Friday nights.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yep, yep.

Pete Taylor:

Country Girl (Shake It for Me), Luke Bryan.

Andy Lakatosh:

That was a staple for many, many years on the single T-Town playlist that played in the same order over and over again.

Pete Taylor:

Over and over and over again, every Friday night.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s amazing.

Pete Taylor:

That song, as soon as I hear it, it just transports me back. I love it. And maybe Enter Sandman by Metallica when the spring racers would come up.

Joan Hanscom:

Amazing.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’ll get the DJ on that this year, for sure.

Joan Hanscom:

Exactly.

Pete Taylor:

The music was all-

Joan Hanscom:

Well, Pete, thank you for joining us. This was a great chat. You’re welcome to come back on the show any time you want. Can’t wait to see you in person, here, when it’s not 30 inches of snow.

Pete Taylor:

Yep, you too.

Joan Hanscom:

And fingers crossed that we get to have a normal-er season and it’ll be good. It’ll be good to see you.

Pete Taylor:

Yeah, well always. Thank you so much for having me on.

Joan Hanscom:

All right. This has been the Talk of The T-Town Podcast. I’m Joan Hanscom, executive director joined by my co-host, Andy Lakatosh and our special guest, Pete Taylor. If you liked the show, check out the show notes and visit the website, the velodrome.com. Subscribe and give us a like. And your reviews and positive comments really do help us grow the show. Thanks so much!

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast with hosts 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, the velodrome.com where you can check out the show notes and subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode.