Spencer Lueders remembers his first bike, at age 5, was a red Schwinn. He now rides a Trek Madone 6.9, a 15-pound, full-carbon superbeast of a two-wheeler. Lueders — a Charlotte attorney, cyclist, founder of 24 Hours of Booty (www.24hoursofbooty.org) and president of Cycling Center Partners — likes clean, fast-track bikes. The kind, for instance, you'd ride on a velodrome track. Which brings us to a really big project he happens to be co-founder of: The U.S. Cycling Center, currently under construction some 30 minutes south of Charlotte in Rock Hill, S.C.
Back in 2001, Lueders was working on a proposal to bring a velodrome (an arena for track cycling, with steep banked walls) to Charlotte. He had a business plan, but no connections — until he joined forces with local cycling enthusiasts ... who had connections, but no business plan. Unfortunately, Lueders said it was around the same time that the county's resources were tied up with the Bobcats Arena and Whitewater Center, and the group slowly ran out of steam. Plan B: Go South.
"We started exploring our options and found reception in Rock Hill," said Lueders. "... We spent a lot of time with the city, educating them on track racing and different forms of cycling." Soon after, Lueders and CCP (formerly the Carolina Velodrome Association) were presented with a unique opportunity when they met the developer behind Rock Hill's Riverwalk community.
"When we started talking about cycling," said Lueders, "he said: 'You know, I have 250 acres of this 1,000-acre complex that I want to dedicate to public outdoor use.' ... So we started talking about mountain biking trails, and we educated him on cyclocross and BMX racing and road racing — and started thinking about ways to combine them all in this unique complex."
The resulting combination is a world-class facility to be located on the edge of the Catawba River, with a 250-meter concrete velodrome, seven miles of singletrack, a BMX Supercross track, 1.5-mile paved criterium course, and a cyclocross track. "There's really no other complex that's going to have all five types of cycling in the same complex," says Lueders. "It's also unique in that the velodrome is the only one that we've ever seen or heard of ... that's embedded inside the community."
Lueders anticipates that once the Center opens (the expected completion date is spring 2012), the championship-grade courses will be a huge draw for local and regional riders of all ages and experience levels, international athletes who relocate to the area to train, as well as thousands of fans who will be drawn to the BMX races and World Cup-style events. Ultimately, he envisions it helping to create a more bike-friendly culture and being "a great hub for all things cycling."
"In Charlotte, I think [the Center] will generate more interest and more cyclists, which is a good thing," he says. "I think it's going to be a positive thing for cycling overall."
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