During the summer, the Alkek Velodrome offered a free program for kids to learn to ride or race the track. After the first session, I was at the Velodrome training and racing with my kids and husband every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and some Saturday’s for the next 9 years. My kids are now grown, married and attending college after retiring from cycling in 2012. Currently, I coach at the Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point, Georgia and have about 30 kids who attend the Junior League programs. Dick Lane’s program runs from April through October. Throughout the program we teach skills on the track, try to teach different racing techniques, and race a lot. In the final week of the program I thought it would be helpful for the parents (some are non-cycling families) to know what their kids can aim toward.
Junior Program – Almost every track in the U.S. has a program – a 3 day summer camp or a 7 month program like at Dick Lane to introduce track racing. Some tracks offer junior race teams whose goal is help develop the junior toward National championship and beyond. All skills learned on the track will be used in other cycling events – road racing, criterium racing, and cyclocross or off road.
Local Races – Every track has a certification program to teach adults how to ride the track. Some tracks may require juniors to attend the class. The juniors would then have opportunities to race with the adults.
State Championship – Offered once a year, can be a single or two day event, age based races.
National Championship – Offered once a year, this event may be offered in another state (Carson, CA – Rock Hill, South Carolina – Frisco, TX – T-Town, PA) – if your junior is not part of a team that sponsors National Championships then save your money. You will have entry fees, travel, bike fees (fee for flying your bike to your destination), hotel and food expenses. But your junior will learn so much, they will meet kids from all over the U.S., they will learn how to lose and they may learn how to win. Even if your junior wins at every race at the local track this does not mean your junior will win at National’s. Leave the big egos at home. The success of your 17 / 18 year old junior at Track Nationals could lead to an invitation to attend Junior Worlds, Pan American Championship or Pan American Games.
There are four Track National Championships offered every year: Junior National Championship – ages 9 to 18; Collegiate Track Championship (the college must have a cycling club); Elite Track Championship – ages 19+ (juniors 17 & 18 can attend Elite Track Nationals, check with USAC for rules); and Master Track Championship – ages 35+.
Junior Worlds – for ages 17 & 18. The junior must meet the time standards USAC requires. If the junior meets the time standards, then USAC will sponsor the trip. If the junior does not meet the time standards and wishes to attend Worlds, then the junior must fill out a petition requesting to go. If the petition is approved, the parents will need to pay for some or most of the expenses. You will need to check with USAC for more information.
Jr. Pan American Championship – for ages 17 & 18 held every year, except for the year of the Jr. Pan American Games. A competition offered to athletes in the “Americas” – North America and South America.
Jr. Pan American Games – Wikipedia writes “The Pan-American or Pan American Games (also known colloquially as the Pan Am Games) constitute a major event in the Americas featuring summer and formerly winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The competition is held between athletes from nations of the Americas, every four years in the year before the Summer Olympic Games. The next edition will be held in Toronto in 2015.”
World Cups for Elite Track racers – To attend a World Cup you must be invited by USAC to represent the US. The racers that are in the top 10 will receive points, the countries with the most points will be invited to attend Elite World Championship where a racer can win the World Champion title and jersey.
Master Worlds – always held in Manchester, England. No requirements required to attend by USAC. A master athlete that wishes to compete in their age group with folks from all over the world. Sponsorship to attend Master Worlds could come from your team, if they offer sponsorship, or from yourself. Check with USAC on the proper workout required to attend any international event.
Olympics – The US must qualify to attend the Olympics. The US qualifies by winning points at the Track World Cups and the World Championship.