It doesn't take much prodding to get cyclist Steve Sperry to tell you what he thinks of the new Giordana Velodrome
in Rock Hill
"It's like Disney World," he said.
It's a description and feeling echoed by cyclists around the region and beyond, talking about the new 250-meter world-class banked racing track in off Interstate 77 in Rock Hill
, just south of Charlotte. The concrete track has a 42.5-degree bank (for comparison, the NASCAR track at Talladega has a 36-degree incline), and offers events and programs for kids and adult riders.
The Giordana Velodrome is one of only 20 velodromes in the country and is endorsed by USA Cycling. It will host national events -- along with introducing the area to the Olympic sport of track cycling through rider development and outreach programs.
We stopped by on a recent weekday and found serious cyclist training at the track. About 125 people have been dropping by each day since the track opened in mid-March -- wondering about these cyclists zipping around this large banked oval.
"I love the pure speed of being on the track," said Ben Faulk of Winston-Salem, who was training at the course. He's been cycling for 15 years, racing for 12 and racing on a track since 2007. He now makes the ride to Rock Hill
once every week or two to train at the velodrome.
A league racing series will start on Thursday and Friday evenings in mid-May and run through September, offering a chance for families to watch the action for free from a seating area above the track.
If you want to go beyond being a spectator, the Giordana Velodrome offers certification courses, including classroom and on-track clinics, to help riders get ready to take a spin on the track. Special bicycles -- with no gears or brakes -- must be used on the banked track and are available to rent for $5 for two hours. The track is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1-7 p.m. Sundays.
The track is also planning a "Kids on the Track" program this summer, which will introduce children to track cycling.
Giordana Velodrome staffer Donna Richter said the response to the new track has been overwhelming -- both from curious onlookers to serious cyclists. Her husband and son, both avid road cyclists, recently were track certified and took a ride on the velodrome.
The text Richter's husband sent her after his first ride: "WHAT A BLAST."
It sure looks that way.
Rock Hill's New Giordana Velodrome is Open for Cyclists