Many of the best track cyclists in the world converged on the Lehigh Valley Velodrome today in preparation for tomorrow night's KNBT Festival of Speed. Ryan Bayley, Shane Kelly, and Mark French of the Australian Olympic team, Tim Veldt and Teun Mulder of Holland, Italy's Roberto Chiappa, British Olympic team riders Jason Kenny and Matt Crampton, Olympians Josiah Ng and Adam Duvendeck, along with USA's Andy Lakatosh, Ben Barczewski, and Ryan Nelman were among those who worked out in the midday sun.
"I don't think Mary [Nothstein] and I have been more excited about the quality of racing we're going to see over the three-week, four UCI event stretch," velodrome director Erin Hartwell said. "It's absolutely amazing to have the reigning Olympic champions in Ryan Bayley and Anna Meares…to have Roberto Chiappa back, who's absolutely on fire…It is the strongest sprint field I've ever seen in Trexlertown."
The riders will witness the unveiling of the velodrome's new corporate title sponsor at tomorrow night's race. This won't be the first name change the velodrome has undergone after it switched from being called Lehigh County Velodrome to the Lehigh Valley Velodrome in the late 1990s, but this will be its first corporate title.
Hartwell added that the strong international field that will be on hand "more than compares" to other International Sprint Grand Prixs. For getting such a high-quality group to the Lehigh Valley, he credits the riders themselves.
"They know it's an awesome environment," Hartwell said. "Crowds fill the stands, there's a great prize list and we extend the riders as much hospitality as we can, so most of the riders have a great experience here in Eastern Pennsylvania."
He added that he and Nothstein know many of the riders, and through their own networks they were able to draw some of the best riders in the world.
The two British Olympic team members, Jason Kenny and Matt Crampton, say they like the weather in T-Town and the open roads for training. They added that the promise of training and racing with the best sprinters in the world coupled with a dearth of much going on in the Manchester area of England made the choice to come to T-Town an easy one.
"We're trying to build the quality of racing world-wide," Hartwell said. The new title sponsor is one of the first steps in the velodrome's five year plan. "The long term goal is an Olympic-style development center," he said. "The sky's the limit. There's no reason T-Town can't be the world leader in cycling."
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