What would it mean to have a track in Sacramento? ‘In a word, incredible’ was Mike Sayers’ answer to my first question during our interview. Dean Alleger had asked if Mike would be on the board of directors for the Sacramento Valley Velodrome Association last winter and he was happy to participate. Since retiring from professional bicycle racing, Mike has been an assistant director sportive for BMC Professional Cycling team based out of Santa Rosa California. He was a professional cyclist for over 14 years both in the United States, Europe and the Pacific. He is also a two-time member of the US World Championship Team (2002, 2003). Although the majority of his career was spent racing on the road, Sayers greatly values what track racing can do for any cyclist. He said that it would enhance what is already an excellent cycling community. It would open up cycling to different demographics in this area that don’t normally get into bicycle racing. He feels that it would significantly improve the sport at the city, state and national level. To have the ability to bring national and international level events to Sacramento to compete would fit a niche and fill in some niches that have been recently vacated by track and field etc. The Sacramento Sports Commission had been working on prestigious events like the National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships but those competitions have recently left Sacramento. Velodromes are unique in that they are limited in number and would create a place that would bring in revenue not only for the venue itself but also for the city. The monetary benefit from hotels, restaurants etc already seen by active Velodromes are pretty significant. ‘Whatever money the city would put into it, if any, would come back 100 fold over time.’
When asked how the current professionals got started on the track, Mike said that most of them started off as pursuitors or team pursuitors in the national program; a lot like the national academy that the British have.
‘The British have completely turned around their cycling program by basing it on the track.’
Many of the professional cyclists from Britain that are competing at the pro tour level started off on the track as kids and it is evident how successful their program has been, especially over the last five years. In the United States however, there hasn’t been as much transition from the track to the road since the pursuit program ended. It was popular in the early and mid-90’s and many of the athletes transitioned nicely from the track to professional road teams. The Australians did the same thing during the 90’s also and their program was centered around the Olympics to develop their riders on the track. Some of Australia’s most successful road cyclists all started on the track like Baden Cooke, Stuart O’Grady & Bradley McGee. The idea was to get them racing with the intention of taking them to the Olympics and then afterwards helping them to further their career on the road.
‘Americans need to do THAT because it’s proven to be such a successful recipe.’
Mike feels that all we need are the right development programs and the right coaching to push riders on the track and beyond. Track racing is really good for cycling as a whole and it starts at the junior regional level and transcends all the way to the international level.
Sacramento Valley Velodrome Board of Directors role
Right now Sayers is hoping to help bring media exposure and to help raise money to help the program move forward. As he has more time in the future, he would like to be involved on a day to day basis scouting out and recruiting riders and getting involved with the racing and development. In the future, as track racing becomes a nearly daily occurrence, he hopes to participate at least on a weekly basis. It’s also important to him that the general public is educated on what track racing is. Getting kids involved now as a result of public knowledge is vital to developing those skills young. The track is a very spectator friendly venue and all the successful tracks in the nation have weeknight events for the public.