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Photo by Kevin Dillard
The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic is different this year. We have a new format, one designed to showcase the speed, skill and excitement of some of the world’s best track racers. Of course questions abound as with any change, so here are some answers.
Why change the format?
Cycling needs to become more attractive to a general audience which is something almost everyone involved in the organization of the sport is finally realizing. The Giro has gone to an extreme, with a “Savage” race course (as describe by Team Sky DS Sean Yates), in their attempt to gain audience*. The Quebec ProTour races are trying a new sprinter format. Jens Voigt speaking of the need for more circuit races, etc. This Omnium will be very hard, promise tons of action and will make for excellent TV. It will entertain our fans and hook the casual spectator. And, it’s the American racing style, invented in New York City and made enormously rich and popular here, albeit a long time ago. But it still works.
What is an Omnium?
An Omnium is a series of races held on the same day with points awarded to the winners. The races are varied and designed to entertain the public. The pros will begin with a Points Race, which in this case will be a 27 lap race with five sprints (5th, 10th, 15th, 20th and 27th laps). There will be five placings each sprint. Double points on the final sprint, highest points scorer wins. All of the amateur races will be Points Races as well.
The second pro race will be a “Devil Take the Hindmost” AKA Elimination, a popular and entertaining event where the last (in this case two) riders to cross the finish line each lap are pulled. So it’s both a race from the front and from the back. The sight of top racers desperately sprinting into the back of the field is not one to be missed. The field is whittled down to the last five riders who then contest the finish.
The top points scorer of the the two combined races is declared the winner.
What about this Kerin race, what is it?
The Kerin race will be an exhibition and open to 10 selected riders, based on their skill, professionalism and speed. The race, normally run on velodromes, originated in Japan in 1948 as a betting sport. The top rider on the Japanese circuit won $2.9 million last year, so clearly interest remains high.
Our Kerin race will be three laps of the racecourse. The first two are paced behind a motorcycle that slowly accelerates from about 15 mph to 30 mph before pulling off and launching the riders into the final lap. The racers draw lots to determine their position behind the moto, but, as with Italian stop signs, these assigned spots can be considered as “opinions”. Lot’s of pushing, shoving and head-butting goes on back there. The driver of the moto is a key component to the event, and in our case we are lucky to have Gil Hatton, former World Junior Sprint Champion (beating Guiseppe Sarroni for you cycling historians..) and coach of Olympic Sprint Champ Mary Nothstein.
Who will be the racers of the Omnium?
Given the traditional date of the Skyscraper, and it’s conflict with the NRC Nature Valley GP, we decided to push the race more towards a fast-man, track racer style of rider. We are positioning the event as a preview of the new Olympic track racing format, which will indeed be an Omnium. With that in mind, we’ve upped our European roster, bring six of world class 6-Day stars, including 4 x World Champ Franco Marvulli, and last year’s 1 & 2 finishers Christian Grasmann and Leif Lampater. They’ll be joined by another Swiss, German and an Austrian racer.
We are working closely with Marty Nothstein of the Valley Preferred Velodrome in Trexlertown, and his bevy of summer track racing stars are coming to participate, including racers from Argentina, Poland, New Zealand, Australia, etc.
That leaves us with about 40 spots open for the event. Team directors interested in having either individuals or 3-4 man teams race, please contact me at: jde[at]spartacycling.com
See you on race day,
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*Note- this piece was written a few days before the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, team, and supporters.