‘What I like to do’: Young athlete scores high in competitive track cycling

Young athlete scores high in competitive track cycling

PHOTO PROVIDED Colton Bodwell rides on the velodrome at the The Valley Preferred Cycling Center.

In the short time Colton Bodwell has been in the competitive track cycling scene, he’s become one of the top points scorers in his league. Having only been riding track since June, Colton has an optimistic future in competitive racing.

Colton, 9, was riding without training wheels by the time he was 3 years old, said Keith Bodwell, his father. His first bike with gears was a mountain bike three years later.

Since then, he’s gravitated toward road bikes until a trip to the USA Cycling Junior Track Nationals, at the The Valley Preferred Cycling Center outside of Allentown, gave him a clear focus.

The velodrom there, referred to as T-town, is one of the few in the Northeast.

The center attracts some of the greatest riders from around the world, according to its website. Every summer, multiple nations come to train and race in T-town, preparing for world championships or Olympic games.

Inspired by the race he went to with his dad, Colton started riding around the track this past summer and began competing by entering in the youth league for track cycling this fall.

The Red Robin Marty Nothstein Bicycle Racing League introduces new riders with no previous experience to racing competitively. It’s offered twice a year — once in fall and once in the spring.

Track cycling began on indoor tracks made of wood and attracted crowds as early as 1870, according to olympic.org.

In 1896, it first was included in the Olympic Games. Track cycling events have been included in all editions of the Games since then, except in the 1912 Games in Stockholm.

Ready to race

A month before Colton’s first lap around the velodrome, he went on an extensive road ride on the entire Pine Creek Rail Trail.

“It was a birthday present from my dad,” Colton said. “… It was pretty challenging.”

Before the lengthy trip, his longest ride on bicycle was 26 miles long.

Out of the three days it took them to get up and back the total 152-mile route, Colton had more than doubled his longest ride, by cycling 64 miles in a single day.

The trip tested him and prepared him for the league — made him ready to race, he said.

Making better riders

In the Red Robin league, riders learn how to maneuver the unique specs of a track bike and how to handle types of races.

The teams compete against each other in three of four types of races spanning six nights.

There are points, scratch and handicap races, Colton explained.

In a points race, riders gain numeric points depending on where they finish each lap.

In a scratch race, it’s the typical, first one to the finish.

A handicap race is where the slower riders get a brief headstart.

“He (Colton) won the majority of them,” Keith said.

Four teams were in the league this past fall. Keith helped coach his son’s team, the Bleu Ribbons.

“It’s really something seeing them lap around in tight groups of riders,” Keith said. “The skills they learn on the track make them much better riders. And, it’s a great father-son bonding experience.”

Bigger things

Once Colton is 10, he becomes eligible to qualify for more races, including many approved by USA Cycling.

It’s then when his opportunities will open up as a competitor, Keith said.

The lap number will increase from the three to four he was doing over the summer. As he starts competing more, he could qualify for more races.

Until then, he’s going to continue to ride his road bike a few times a week with his dad, train on his stationary trainer and focus on the track season.

Colton, who’s already run 5Ks, said he’d eventually like to complete a triathlon.

“That’s just what I like to do,” Colton said. “I like to swim and run too.”