In 2010, American track cyclists will have the first opportunity to compete in national track racing series in 7 years thanks to the work of Jeff Hopkins, the new American Track Racing Association (ATRA) director. The 11-race series will begin in May at the Superdrome in Frisco, Texas and continue at seven other velodromes around the country, ending back in Texas for the National Championships.
In his new role, Hopkins put together the series to try and unify track racing in the USA. Some of the races will be run under an ATRA permit, others will be raced as USA Cycling races, but all of the tracks are members of ATRA.
Hopkins is hoping to use the inaugural National Championship Series as a seed to grow the concept. "If just one person from another track travels to race at each event, the series will be a success. We have to start small and manageable, bring some awareness and then continue to grow the series every year," Hopkins said.
The series is just one of the ways Hopkins is revamping the image of ATRA. Earlier this year he was approached by the organisation to provide promotional assistance and to manage their media relations. Hopkins, a former junior world champion and retired professional cyclist, was ready to take on the challenge.
In addition to the new race series, Hopkins intends use internet social media networking to help member tracks promote their races. "We have to use everything! The internet is changing. The ATRA website is now bringing in a news feed from every member velodrome that has one, and is automatically integrated with Facebook and Twitter so that we have another vehicle to disseminate news items from each velodrome. We are also exploring ways to work with the member tracks to promote their racing outside of the NCS."
The new initiative should help enlighten racers in North American to the role of ATRA, which has functioned under the radar of most racers. Without a cohesive national series, few were aware that ATRA is a national organization of velodromes and that it has been providing low cost insurance to numerous velodromes around the country, allowing the race promoters to run events with appropriate liability coverage at a significant savings over races sanctioned by USA Cycling.
While this has been seen as a tremendous benefit to promoters and velodrome managers around the country, it's more of a background service than a feature presentation.
Working as the Director of Operations for the Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point, Georgia, Hopkins understood what ATRA had to offer, but realized the organization need something new.
"ATRA's insurance model can not only save a velodrome a lot of money, but also a lot of paperwork. Some tracks have different ‘needs and wants' out of their insurance, and so don't join ATRA as a result. ATRA needed to be able to provide more value to our members and make our group more attractive to velodromes that aren't currently members. There are only 13 ATRA member tracks in the US. Ideally, all of them would be members."
This is where the idea for the ATRA National Championship Series came to light. "The idea has been in the back of my head since FixedGearFever promoted the National Track Racing Calendar. We had riders coming to Atlanta from tracks all over the country to earn points. That was exciting. I knew this was what we needed to do!"
The ATRA National Championship Series will award Championship Jerseys to men and women at the end of the series. As important as that is, the race series is much bigger in the eyes of many. This is an opportunity for a national organization to put their name on a cohesive race series. The staff and volunteers at the member tracks are generally at their own personal capacity.
With Hopkins on the ground doing the promotion and advertising, ATRA may finally be able to unite velodromes and more importantly, track cycling in North America.
Current National Championship Series Schedule:
5/22-24 - Matrix Cup (Superdrome - Frisco, TX)
6/11-13 - Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic (NSC Velodrome - Blaine, MN)
6/18 - Festival of Speed - US 10mile (Valley Preferred Cycling Center - Trexlertown, PA)
7/09-10 - Outback Bikes presents 'The Omnium' (Dick Lane Velodrome - East Point, GA)
7/16-18 - Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge (Alpenrose - Portland, OR)
7/23 - Keirin Cup (Valley Preferred Cycling Center - Trexlertown, PA)
7/31 - Far West Championships (Encino Velodrome - Encino, CA)
8/14 - Alpenrose Heartbreaker (Alpenrose Velodrome - Portland, OR)
8/21-22 - CA State Championships (Hellyer Park Velodrome - San Jose, CA)
9/10-11 - Thomsen, LTD. 'The Madison' (Dick Lane Velodrome - East Point, GA)
9/17-19 - Elite Nationals Qualifier (Superdrome - Frisco, TX)
For more information, visi http://www.raceATRA.com