than a dozen riders trail a motor scooter around the Major Taylor Velodrome
during a recent training session, furiously pedaling up to 40 miles per hour.
As the motorbike gradually increases speed, spent riders begin peeling off the
Peterson, head coach of the Marian University cycling team and the man in
charge of the Indy Cycloplex, hangs on longer that most, but finally yields. He
eases down to the infield, seemingly pleased not only with the workout, but
also with the progress surrounding him.
this weekend's Mass Ave Criterium, you might be hard pressed to find a podium
without at least one of Peterson's proteges.
the velodrome to the east, construction continues on a revived BMX track that
had its grand opening in late June. To the west lies the framework for a
cyclocross course that Peterson hopes will one day be the site of a national
championship race. The track itself has seen numerous improvements over the
last 12 months.
too long ago, just having a handful of riders at a mid-week track practice
would be cause for celebration, but the crowds are rapidly becoming the norm at
the velodrome. In less than a year, Peterson and an army of student athletes
and volunteers have transformed the Cycloplex into the major hub of bicycle
racing in the city.
fixed-gear track bike is an apt comparison for Peterson, neither have brakes
and are capable only of moving forward, preferably exceedingly fast.
of many hats
47-year-old Peterson has worn many hats over the years – bike racer,
coach, mechanic, camp organizer, Peace Corps volunteer, teacher, Tour de France
guide; he's isn't a stranger to building projects. He spent two years in the
Togo region of Africa, teaching villagers how to construct fresh water wells,
clay stoves and bike trailers. In the late 1990s, he co-founded the Children
First cycling team – the precursor to today's Bissell-ABG-NUVO squad –
which raised more than $80,000 for abused and disadvantaged youth in the area.
always tried to do the kind of work that had intrinsic value to the community,"
Peterson said. "... With Children First, I wanted to show that compassion and
competition could coexist. We could race our bikes and have it mean more than
just the spirit of competition."
tries to bring that same goal to his charges at Marian, encouraging students to
become involved hands-on in projects they're passionate about.
came into the Marian coaching job almost by accident; he met with newly hired
Marian athletic director Joe Haklin in 2006 thinking he'd try to convince him
to keep the cycling program, which had been rumored to be on the chopping
block. Instead, Haklin offered him the job as coach.
Siebenlisthad just finished her freshman year at Marian, but
clashes with then-coach Ken Nowakowski left her discouraged and planning to
leave school. After Peterson was hired, he called her and managed to lure her
back. Unfortunately for the new coach, he was unable to convince the bulk of
the team to stay and was faced with constructing a new team almost from the
was a good fit for me," Siebenlist said. "I majored in education; he was a
teacher at the Orchard School for a long time. He wanted me to focus on
academics more than the cycling. ... At the time, I wasn't very good. Dean helped
me grow, both as a cyclist and as a person. He gave me the support I needed,
but also pushed me when I needed it.
he came on, there were only seven or eight of us left on the team. We didn't
have a big bus like they do now; we rode in Dean's car, and he'd recruit
someone else to drive (another vehicle). Sometimes it'd be his neighbor,
sometimes it was a bike rep."
team would come back stronger than before. A track-cycling powerhouse in the
1990s and early 2000s, Peterson expanded the team's scope. The team retains its
dominance on the boards, winning the last six national collegiate
championships, but now also excels in the road and cyclocross disciplines,
winning national championships in each over the past few years.
rise of the velodrome
velodrome has always been an important piece for Marian's cycling team. Built
in 1982, Major Taylor Velodrome quickly became one of the premier bicycle
tracks in the country. Racers from across the Midwest traveled to compete there
against hundreds of others in front of spectators packed tightly into the
bleachers. But over the years, the luster faded, and both cyclists and fans
virtually disappeared. The track fell into disrepair, as the cash-strapped city
couldn't afford much of the maintenance.
the city sought private partners to operate the velodrome and surrounding Lake
Sullivan Sports Complex, Peterson and Marian officials answered the call,
presenting the city with an ambitious revitalization plan. Per the agreement,
Marian will make up to $2 million in improvements to the park over the next 10
years, keeping the revenue generated.
proud that Marian felt responsible as a good citizen to step up to this
challenge and keep this wonderful park open to the community," Peterson said.
"We want to use our Marian team to create some attention and excitement, so
hopefully people and kids will come out and try racing for the first time. ...
It's our desire with the BMX and cyclocross courses to create a comprehensive
cycling experience for people."
hopes to raise $250,000 in grants and private donations to start work on many
of the projects by the end of the year. Officials hope to sell naming rights to
each of the new courses in order to raise funds, but the Major Taylor Velodrome
name – honoring the first African-American world champion in any sport --
won't be changed, Peterson has said.
the new courses, some other major changes are planned, but Peterson is
reluctant to share the details at this time.
anticipates national-level events coming to the Indy Cycloplex in the next few
years, but hopes his student-athletes will be able to walk away from the
experience with more than just medals.
they finally leave Marian, I want them to have experienced something special,
something they can use to build a better life more so than a national
championship ... like hard work and teamwork," Peterson said. " ... I'm proud of
all the things we're doing here; I'll always treasure being a part of it."