The sun shone brightly as a pack of cyclists took laps during timed races Sunday at the Business Park of Kenosha.
At the 38th annual event coordinated by Kenosha Velosport, a series of weekend races dubbed the “spring training” for cyclists, there was a buzz in the air, but not just from racers churning against the wind.
In a few weeks, many of the riders are hopeful for the long-awaited opening of the new track at the Washington Park Velodrome. According to the velodrome’s website, opening night is planned for May 16.
Among them is international cycling champion Joe Berenyi of Oswego, Ill., who earned has gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics.
Berenyi said his preparations last year were to have included training at the velodrome.
“But with everything that happened last year, with whatever you want to call it — construction fault, nature, I don’t know — I just know that it wasn’t rideable. I just traveled to Los Angeles,” he said. “I was glad to see there was a little flier saying it's starting soon. So, I’m excited about coming up here and racing.”
When he first got started with track riding, it was 2011 and he’d drive to Kenosha weekly to train with a group on Wednesdays.
“When I became interested in Paralympic competitions, riders recommended the Kenosha velodrome,” he said.
And, a year later, he won a gold medal at his first Paralympic competition in 2012. Berenyi said he plans to train in Kenosha this year for the Master’s World Championships in Los Angeles in October.
Last May, the grand opening of the velodrome, the longest-operating track of its kind in the United States, was delayed after hairline fractures were discovered in the track’s surface.
A $25,000 settlement was approved by the City Council last fall to allow contractor Rasch Construction to make the repairs to the track, originally a $650,000 project. The track has been closed since 2015.
The final payment for the repairs has been delayed at the committee level, but is anticipated to be approved at a council meeting next month, according to Ald. Dave Pfaff, an avid cyclist who also participated in Sunday’s event.
He said, however, that public works crews have already performed a final “walk through,” and the track is ready to go.
The track isn’t on the council’s agenda this week. He’s hopeful that the item will be approved at the committee level next week to be brought before the council April 3.
Joe Proszowski, a cyclist from Chicago who participated in Sunday’s event, said while the velodrome isn’t his training site, he has ridden on the old track and recalled the duct tape holding parts of it together.
“We kinda knew where the bad spots were and just avoided it,” said Proszowski, a track rider the last five years. “I mean, there’s worse stuff on the roads, though.”
Despite the past problems, he is optimistic about riding at the velodrome this year.
“I’m looking forward to it opening. It’s going to be a huge step up compared with the old track. It’s great that it’s a new track,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot more competition, and people are going to want to travel to Kenosha for a brand new track.”
And he loves track racing.
“That’s where my heart’s at,” he said as he prepared to race.
Chris Riva, race director for the Tuesday night events at the velodrome each Summer, said many of the 107 riders who registered at Sunday’s race were excited and “just wanted to make sure we’re going to open.”
Mike Riva, who represents Kenosha Velosport, said he is also excited about using the new track.
“That’s been our No. 1 focus for the last couple years with the repairs,” he said. “I think while there may have been frustration in years past, this year everybody is excited.
“It really seems that it’s going to open this time, and the city’s done a wonderful job of keeping everyone informed.”