Mass Ave Crit 2012: Dean Peterson

Dean Peterson, on site at the Major Taylor Velodrome, part of the Lake Sullivan Sports Complex.


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.



had 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

ground up.


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."


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