photos © truemarmalade
Y’all give USA Cycling a big round of applause, they deserve it; without their help, there probably wouldn’t be crit racing at the Driveway again. Not just Thursday nights, but ever. One of the coolest venues in Texas cycling was thisclose to never hosting a bike race again.
That is, until USA Cycling stepped in and gave promoter Andrew Willis and Holland Racing a proverbial hand up.
Rewind a bit, to just as last season was coming to an end. The beloved Driveway, which as we all know, wasn’t built for bicycles but rather cars and other fast, motorized vehicles – not skinny tires or pelotons. With its out-of-the-way location on private land alongside the Colorado River, not far from downtown ATX, the Driveway serves as the perfect playground for those who want to go fast in karting, track their race-ready vehicles or participate in tactical training, perhaps.
Called a “motoring academy that brings European style and flair to Central Texas,” the Driveway is a Grand Prix-style course featuring an F1 caliber track with elevation changes and signature corners, and, to borrow a hokey phrase or two, it’s a real gem right in the heart of Texas.
For 12 years, criterium races have been held at the Driveway and the gasoline-guzzling car buffs have happily shared the track with the not-so-buff road cyclists (…well, unless you’re talking about those leg muscles…!), but the City of Austin created a little problem that would possibly drive a wedge between the two groups and potentially derail bike racing at the beloved venue.
Here’s what happened: The City of Austin declared there was a boundary line dispute and instead of challenging each other to a duel or an arm-wrestling contest, the City and the Driveway owners came to an agreement to move a small portion of the track so it came within the correct boundary lines … BY A WHOPPING 10 FEET (insert sarcasm here).
And that’s what caused the resulting issue that would affect the future of bicycle racing at the Driveway. The track wasn’t really moved, it was simply made narrower – going from 36 feet wide to just 11 feet wide. Well, that won’t do for bike racing. USA Cycling requires a minimum course width of approximately 22 feet.
Thing is – that new, narrower width was just fine for car racing. So, when the construction finished not long before tonight’s crit season opener, bicycle-loving Andrew Willis approached the racecar-loving Driveway owner and asked that the track be widened to the side away from the boundary line. However, track owner had no interest in spending the money to accommodate the bicycle races since the track’s adjusted width was fine for car racing. To be honest, that makes sense on his part.
It was then that Andrew knew the future of the Driveway races was in jeopardy. “I couldn’t get it across that I wasn’t just trying to use the new width as a bargaining chip or negotiation tactic for what we pay to rent the venue,” Willis, who has been the promoter of the Driveway races for the past nine years, explains. “I knew I needed some help in convincing the owners that the track needed to be wider for reasons far beyond Holland Racing.”
He needed help. So he picked up the phone and called USA Cycling. Insert collective gasp here.
USA Cycling loves grassroots efforts – and the Driveway Series is the epitome of grassroots.
Willis explained the issue to someone at USA Cycling and within a matter of days, they had Don Losole, Events Services Regional Manager, at the Driveway meeting with the owner. The Driveway owner saw that the track had to be a minimum width for safety and be in accordance with USA Cycling regulations and also to qualify for event insurance – so he agreed to additional construction at his expense. Hey thanks, Mr. Driveway Owner – a really big thanks! Bicycle racers all across Texas really appreciate you being willing to fix the track so they can race!
“As soon as I talked to Andrew, I told him that I’d do whatever I could to help him save his race season,” Losole says. “USA Cycling loves grassroots efforts – and the Driveway Series is the epitome of grassroots. It’s taken on such a following and everyone loves the Driveway.”
The ironic part of the story is that when Willis called, Losole, a San Antonio resident, was in Colorado at USA Cycling meetings, but USA Cycling was so committed to helping, the organization immediately flew Losole back to Texas so he could help – and then back to Colorado for the meetings.
“The support from USA Cycling has been remarkable,” Willis says. “As of a month ago, the Driveway Series was not going to happen.”
So, see, y’all do owe USA Cycling a big round of applause. Told ya.
THE DRIVEWAY SERIES: Season opener preview
The P123 and 4/5 races were sold out before pre-reg closed last night and the 3/4 races were close to selling out. “This is just an indication that bike racing is alive and well in Austin,” Willis says. “And it’s proof that attendance in weeknight races, like Ginny’s, ours, and the Nashville series are on the rise.” Expect 300 racers to line up Thursday night.
This season will run 29 weeks, shortened just a bit from previous years due to lower numbers by late September – but Willis says if the numbers remain strong, he’ll extend the season.
The course itself will be adjusted for the first few weeks due to some final construction tasks but will return to normal soon enough.
Racers can count on the Nuun Hydration Trailer … aka a 1960’s era pickup bed converted to a water station featuring Nuun products in addition to nice, cold water.
Speaking of cold water, YETI Coolers have stepped up big time with the donation of custom coolers to keep the ice and water nice and cold. Previously, Holland Racing would bring in 11,000 pounds of ice each week and with the capabilities of the coolers, he can reduce that.
Plus – YETI has created custom Driveway Series versions of their Rambler tumblers and 200 of them will be used for prizes this season.
Castelli leaders jerseys, Red Bull samples and prizes, food trucks, Champagne, podium pics by the trailer, sponsored races, music, cider from Austin Eastciders and beer from North by Northwest … just some of the things that make the Driveway Series great will continue this year, not to mention the great bicycle racing happening on the courses we all love.