Rock Hill’s Giordana Velodrome opened in March, and already it is the site of major national bicycle races.
While more than a dozen national races have been held at the Giordana Velodrome since it opened, this week’s 2012 Elite Omnium Track National Championships sponsored by USA Cycling might be the most prestigious. The two-day event starts Friday, with champions named on Saturday night.
Extra temporary seats have been installed to accommodate 2,000 spectators, and local officials expect the stands to be filled. There is no admission charge.
The cyclists will be racing six races, some individual and some team races, over the two days. Up to 24 riders can compete at one time on the track.
Landing this event clearly fulfills the vision of making the velodrome, located near the Riverwalk on the site of the former Celanese industrial site, a major destination for serious cyclists. The banked concrete course is the only 250-meter-long velodrome on the East Coast, and its geometry is similar to what is used for international events, including the Olympics.
As a result, the 2012 Omnium is the first to be held in Rock Hill and on the East Coast. In the past, it was part of the national championships held each year in Carson, Calif., but this year it’s a stand-alone event.
The quality of the competition is high. A number of former and potential future Olympic competitors could take part, as well as many of the state’s best cyclists.
That means spectators can watch world-class cycling in their own backyard. Maybe some of the excitement from the 2012 London Olympics will carry over for this event.
That could be even more likely in the future after BMX/Supercross and mountain biking courses are added to 250-acre site. It should be a magnet not only for top-level cyclists but even for novices.
When plans for the velodrome and cycling center were first proposed, they were met with skepticism. That shouldn’t be surprising; it’s the standard initial reaction to most of the proposed sports venues in Rock Hill.
Many local residents were vehemently opposed to Cherry Park when it was first built. But it soon came to be regarded as one of the city’s top features, drawing thousands of players and fans to annual baseball and softball tournaments.
People were skeptical about building a soccer center in Rock Hill. This summer, the Manchester Meadows soccer complex was host to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series, which also drew hundreds of players and fans.
The Rock Hill Tennis Center boasts multiple tournaments. The city has a first-class swimming center. And don’t forget that Rock Hill is the epicenter of the disc golf universe, with international championships held at the course near Winthrop Lake.
In other words, the cycling championship starting Friday is one of many events that have helped turn Rock Hill into one of the nation’s major sports hubs. Maybe, finally, residents won’t be so skeptical the next time someone suggests building a new sports venue.