May 18 marked the season’s first Thursday Night Lights event at the National Sports Center (NSC) Velodrome, kicking off the 2017 summer racing schedule. Despite the cold weather at the track, the competition was heated as riders flocked to the NSC in search of elite-level cycling and an intense racing environment. The season’s first series of races proved an entertaining summer of cycling lies ahead.
With substantial rain showers in the morning and chilly temperatures below 45 degrees at sunset, the Thursday Night Lights participants were tasked with combatting Mother Nature’s obstacles on the 250-meter wood-planked NSC Velodrome.
Bob Williams, cycling director at the NSC, commented that “things were probably not quite as fast as they could have been,” but there was still excellent competition across all categories.
Despite the imperfect weather conditions, Thursday Night Lights attracted 67 talented riders from across the state.
“It was opening night, so it was a really good turn out,” said Williams.
This week’s forecast looks promising, so hopefully riders will be racing at full speed in front of a packed velodrome on May 25.
On the women’s side of the competition, Tiana Johnson had an outstanding performance to start her summer season. Johnson earned 10 points to win the Category 1/2/3 omnium. Johnson’s points came from two first place finishes in the Super Sprint and the Points race for her category. Margeaux Claude of The Fix Studio team took home first place in the Scratch race for Category 1/2/3, finishing second overall in the omnium with eight points.
Anna Schmitz of Fuerza Cycling captured the Women’s Category 4A omnium title to round out the women’s competition. Schmitz picked up victories in both the Point and Scratch races, while placing third in the Chariot to amass 12 total points.
The Men’s Category 1/2 riders proved their elite abilities on the track in a thrilling and fast-paced omnium.
“We had 19 riders, which is really big for that field,” Williams said. “Jordan Cullen, one of the top riders in the area, was driving it pretty hard,” Williams added.
Cullen, representing Borah Factory Racing, swept all three events in the omnium, winning the Point, Miss and Out, and Scratch races.
Peter Olejniczak, also of Borah Factory, had a strong night at the track, finishing second in the Miss and Out and third in the Scratch. Olejniczak’s solid performance landed him in third place overall in the omnium.
“(Cullen and Olejniczak) both ensured that the Category 1/2 races were run really hard,” Williams said.
St. Paul Bike Racing Club’s Alec Guggemos scored in all three races, finishing in second place in the Category 1/2 omnium with seven points. Guggemos finished as the runner up in last summer’s Track Rider of the Year competition, and looks poised for another dominant season this year.
Clayton Shepard (Midwest Nomads) won a tight competition over Andy Keogh (Donkey Label) in the Category 3 omnium, capturing first place by a one-point margin. Bogdan Rylski (Northstar Development) rounded out the men’s races with a victory in the Category 4/5 omnium.
On May 25, riders will once again take the track at the NSC Velodrome, in what is sure to be a fast-paced night filled with elite competition. The slate of races will look slightly different this Thursday.
“We will run our first Keirin of the season, and our first Madison of the season,” said Williams. “Those will be the feature races for this week.” The Keirin and Madison will be competitive and grueling, testing the riders in their explosiveness and endurance.
Logistically, the construction of the new Spring Lake Park preK-4 Elementary School on the campus of the NSC has commenced this week, and will have a large impact on velodrome activity.
“One of the big messages we are trying to get to people is that parking is going to be a challenge,” said Williams.
For a full article on the updated parking situation at the NSC (specifically pertaining to the velodrome) and a map outlining the accessible parking lots visit http://velodrome.nscsports.org/news_article/show/796050?referrer_id=1839667
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