Sport: The Next Best Thing to Arena Football

Outside magazine, July 1995

Sport: The Next Best Thing to Arena Football

John Vande Velde says your town needs his portable cycling league
By Dan Gindling

"We're Americanizing the sport of cycling," says John Vande Velde, the 46-year-old creator of the Vandedrome, a 153-meter, 53-degree banked oval track that can be disassembled and rolled down the highway to a city near you. "As wonderful as European stage racing is, it's just not going to be the future of cycling in the United States. This will be."

"This" is Vande Velde's dream of a professional, coed cycling league that will pack sports arenas around the country, enthralling Cracker Jack-munching fans with a continuous blur of roulette-style action on the Vandedrome: 12 to 15 races a night, each consisting of anywhere from three to 60 laps of 12 seconds or less. It's a format that will take some getting used to. "Every time you go around a turn," says former Tour de France stage winner Jeff Pierce, who tested the Vandedrome last February, "everything in your body gets sucked down toward the boards because of the centrifugal force." To further fan involvement, Vande Velde hopes to engender loyalties by affiliating teams with major cities. So far he's sunk $300,000 into the project, which he plans to have going with five teams by the end of 1996. He claims that a major beer company, among other corporations, is interested in signing on as a sponsor, and that Prime Sports Network is "very high on the idea."

But a question remains: Will the apathetic-to-cycling American sports fan pay good money to watch the Portland Pedal-Pushers take on the Houston Hammerers? "With the Olympics coming up, I think the time is right," says Don Meek of Prime Sports, "but in this country it'll never be more than a niche sport."

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