In late May, Squid asked me (Brean) to go down to Mexico City to officiate and help produce Velo City Mexico. I jumped at the chance, and Iliana bought a ticket to go and race.
Velo City is an event that Squid has been producing at least since 2007. It is designed as a track event for city bikers and messengers - people who have been riding fixed gears on the street but who may not have actual track experience. It is a fun event and a great way to introduce riders to track racing. Past winners have gone on to have impressive careers on the oval.
Velo City Mexico was a part of TIG Weekend, which was a fundraiser for next year’s CMWC in Mexico City. Safa and Joaquin put us up in their nice apartment in Roma, and Christian from DC and the Bay Area was already in town. Soon, Mario from Los Angeles would join us, as well.
TIG Headquarters - Mexico City, DF
The velodrome was built for the 1968 Olympics and was where Eddy Merckx famously broke the Hour Record (riding, surprisingly, “Eddy Merckx style”). It is an outdoor 333m drome with steeply banked turns —39°! The surface was concrete, and was unexpectedly fast. Very, very nice track.
Velodromo Agustín Melgar
We ran a scratch race, a point a lap, a tempo, a miss n out, a points race and a chariot (1.2 laps). None of the riders had ever raced on the track before, so it was a little scary. Turns out, they were all fine, although we had a number of slides down turn one on the neutrals due to folks riding too slowly for their equipment and the banking. Many of the riders were using 170mm+ cranks and had platform pedals with straps.
In the end, we held a final long scratch race to determine the winner. It was Pancho, who was a great, fast guy who had loaned Iliana an Affinity Kissena to ride.
Pancho and his prizes!
Iliana and Pancho’s Affinity Kissena
Hey, Iliana, this would be a good time for you to talk about your experience!
I was super, super excited about getting the opportunity to ride and race on the Olympic Velodrome in Mexico City, probably too excited. This is an old track built in the 1960s and could have been in bad shape. Luckily this wasn’t the case. The concrete track turned out to be in great condition and very smooth. This is something I always appreciate since my local track is good ol’ bumpy Kissena in Queens, NY.
One thing I did not realize is how steep the banking was going to be. Kissena’s banking is roughly in the 19-degree range. The most banked track I’ve been to at that point was T-Town (roughly 27 degree banking). This track has 39 degree banking and is rather large (333 meters). To be honest, I was terrified to get on the track. I just imagined myself sliding down turn one and making a fool of myself. In my head I was thinking there’s no way I can race on this.
So I hop on the Affinity Kissena bike (funny, right?) that Pancho of the Terremoto Crew let me borrow me for the race. Turns out the bike fit perfectly and I was ready to go. My biggest fear was going too slow. So I wind up on the apron and move up onto the track and ride into turn three. I’m amazed that I’m still upright and also at how steep the banking is as I look down. I quickly got comfortable on the track and started moving up and down it with no problem at higher and higher speeds. This is awesome.
Brean & Iliana doing some pace lining
I’m warming up and all is good until I start feeling really out of breath. What the hell? There’s no way I can be in this bad of shape. Then I remember that the altitude is high in Mexico City (almost 8,000ft). I also had to confirm that it wasn’t me being a weakling. Brean, who is much stronger than I am, was having the same problem.
Iliana feeling the effects of cycling in high altitudes
At this point, I was worried about racing. My body isn’t getting enough oxygen to sustain long efforts. An eight-lap tempo race seemed like eternity. Plus, I’ve never raced with men before. Even though they’ve never been on the track before, some of these guys were fast.
I had a really hard time the first race but was eventually able to hang on to the front group for longer and longer each race. The high altitude was killing me though. My breathing was so fast that I was almost dry heaving. For the first time, I literally couldn’t go on during a race.
Iliana at the rail waiting for the roll out
Racing wrapped up at about 1am – way past my NYC bike racer bedtime. Tacos and cerveza were next on the agenda to celebrate a successful night for the organizers and the racers.
Thank you Mexico City and Squid for hosting such an awesome event and letting us be apart of it!
For everyone heading down south of the boarder for CMWC 2014, we highly suggest arriving at least a week prior to adjust to the altitude.