Savage Sprints – Beyond Vapordrome. The title evokes images of an apocalyptic future. The vision – “It’s a cross between a prize fight, a circus act, and a rock concert, carried out on a handmade, art bike installation” – is part mixed-martial arts cage fighting, part smoke-bright lights-and-fireworks promotion, and part radical cycling fringe. The long-term objective, though, is all bona fide…a Velodrome in Sacramento California.
Dean Alleger has been working for 5 years now to have a velodrome built at California’s state capital. Two years ago he began Savage Sprints – a head-to-head spin battle complete with a knock-out tournament. Now Alleger wants to continue to demonstrate the viability of a bicycle competition to draw spectators in numbers. His extension of the successful Savage Sprints into Beyond Vapordrome is a bold and novel venture.
NCCN: In your mind, how did you extend Savage Sprints into Beyond Vapordrome?
Alleger: When I first went public with my plan to launch a velodrome program in Sacramento a typical naysayer gave me some shit about “what do I know I’m just some dumb shop guy with an imaginary track.” Luckily for my fragile ego Kevin Mansker had already mentioned in the press that my scene was not just another “vapordrome planned out on a beer napkin.” Now that the project is up and running I find myself looking to my future. You know, like now what? I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic and dystopian films so the title kinda works on several levels.
NCCN: Give me an overall look at your cycling and business/non-profit background before leading this effort.
Alleger: My first exposure to a non-profit was rather intimate and on a large million dollar a year scale. I did my first of five national tours with the Sacramento Freelancers Drum and Bugle Corps in the summer of 1979. We did 30 shows a summer coast to coast ending in a yearly national championship competition. I was also in the first wave of students to go through the Visual and Performing Arts Center at Sacramento High School and was the Drum Major of the Dragon Marching Band in 1982-83. I went to the Music School at San Francisco State where I studied trumpet and composition. I spent most of the 90’s as a freelance trumpet player, music director, and studio teacher. My stint as trumpeter, composer, and producer for Dutch Falconi and His Twisted Orchestra landed me in the SAMMIES Hall of Fame.
Due to health problems (I weighed 260 pounds, smoked a pack a day, and lead an all-the-beer -you-can-drink-lifestyle) and family commitments I retired from music at the turn of the century and soon found myself in the bicycle industry. I ran the warehouse at City Bicycle Works for five years then moved up to wrenching for Rex Cycles, an award winning handmade bicycle shop. During this time I completed the California Triple Crown, have won a few age-group road races, track races, criteriums, and the crown jewel amongst bike trail savages, Eppie’s Great Race. In 2008 I was runner up in the individual category for May is Bike Month with 2499 miles. In 2011 I was named Cyclist of the Year by the Sacramento Transportation Management Association.
Four years ago I began coaching bicycle racers and currently have five riders competing in the US and Canada, ranging from track to 24 hour MTB. I have produced three district and two national champions and plenty of local podiums. Two years ago I established the Sacramento Valley Velodrome Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit with the goal to build, run, and maintain a velodrome in the Greater Sacramento Area. I have made great strides toward reaching our first goal, getting backing from the Granite Construction Company, Stantec, and the City of Sacramento. So far I have the support of Hellyer, Alpenrose, Marymoor, and Encino velodromes. I have the experience and connections to begin international level racing beginning opening day…
NCCN: How does success with Beyond Vapordrome, a large number of spectators, translate into a nascent audience for velodrome racing in Sacramento?
Alleger: I see Beyond Vapordrome as the final piece to the public awareness puzzle. An event of this size will give me the opportunity to educate the general population about what track racing is all about. I see track racing as a form of entertainment, theater. performance art. You get a captive audience for 2-3 hours. They get good beer, refreshments, and competitive racing. We get rider development. If we are to compete in the Olympic Movement the resources are gonna have to come from somewhere. The current USAC model of selling bike racing to bike racers isn’t cutting it. I’m interested in selling bike racing to the public. I’m interested in jamming a thousand hungry kids into the pipeline in our first year in business.
NCCN: What kind of benefits do YOU envision a community will derive from a velodrome?
Alleger: We are building a community that can support itself from bottom to top. I envision programs that can identify and nurture talent then help get them to national level competitions. It’s ridiculous to think that the gene pool capable of Olympic success can afford $750 bucks plus airfare and several thousand dollars in equipment to go to a talent id camp. I envision a thousand spectators drinking beer, eating hotdogs, and cheering for the next generation of Olympic hopefuls.
NCCN: Your ultimate goal is the velodrome but could Beyond Vapordrome become an end in itself?
Alleger: If I am successful with Beyond Vapordrome I will come away with some marketable fabrication skills that will lead into my next career. It will give me the security and flexibility to promote races and run our junior development programs.
NCCN: Is raising funds for Beyond Vapordrome the major challenge to getting the gig out of the garage?
Alleger: Yeah all I need is a bit of capital and a good push.
NCCN: Do you have a good network of supporters you can rely on?
Alleger: I got a great group of people propping me up. First and foremost is my wife Katie. She appreciates my ability to see the big picture, is in my corner 100%, and gives me the space to do my thing. I have an accountant, an investment manager, a heart surgeon, and a Pro Tour Sporting Director on my Board of Directors. I have a growing list of folks that contribute in various ways. Vincent Gee, Beverly McInnes, Heather Nielson, Ross Del Duca, Michael Williams, Autumn Hardy, Donna Woods, David Mann, Brian Abers, Mike Murray, Emily Kachorek, Sarah Maile, Rik Keller, Steve Rex, Andrea Lepore, and Gene Redmon are all people that have provided some kind of support and/or service. Some are just a shoulder to cry on and others will call me on my shit when I get too self-righteous .
NCCN: How does your effort, and those of your colleagues, to bring a velodrome to Sacramento compare to Cleveland and San Jose?
Alleger: I see our effort as hopefully creating a template that other communities can copy. Maybe like a Building a Velodrome for Dummies or something. It seems the best way to run a vital track program in America you need three things. Municipal property, private funding, and a non-profit governing association.
NCCN: Is there a development program that you’d like emulate?
Alleger: Everything I’ve seen of junior development at Hellyer has been inspiring. I love to see kids on bikes. I love love love what NICA is doing with the high school mountain bike leagues. But if we are to be competitive in the Olympic Movement I feel like we need to look outside of bike racing for better models of junior development. There is definitely something to be learned from tennis, soccer, swimming, and taekwondo programs as well baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. We need to get kids started on bikes before elementary school and have a system that supports them all the way through the collegiate level. College racing seems to be growing and once you get alumni that are interested in supporting the riders with big scholarships then there will be incentive for kids to excel through their greatest growth years.
NCCN: What is the next hurdle for the Sacramento Velodrome?
Alleger: My immediate goal is to get Granite Land Company, Separovich Domich, Stantec, Sacramento City Parks, and my Board of Directors all in the same room and on the same page.
NCCN: You are a life long Sacramento person. Why do you love it so much?
Alleger: I am a product of the Sacramento Children’s Home class of ’65. Yep, the chosen son. My adopted parents had twins two years later. We are the classic working class family. Dad was a firefighter and mom kept books when she wasn’t chasing after us with dad’s belt. I’m pretty sure I’m descended from the 10,000 years extinct dire wolf, an oversized coyote that was too slow to survive evolution. The natives have a saying that goes something like “souls collect in the place where the two rivers meet.”
Sacramento is the kind of place where if you like a slow and deliberate life you can thrive here. We have a bountiful year round farmer’s market, great restaurants, AAA baseball, the American River Parkway, two universities and several colleges. The trick is to stick to the older neighborhoods and the Highway 50 Corridor along the American River. Once you get off the grid it’s a barren wasteland of McMansion’s, malls, and eight lane urban highways.
NCCN: It seems like Sacramento is turning into a cycling Mecca!
Alleger: Sacramento is a great cycling city. You can commute by bicycle pretty much year round. We have a 32 mile bike path along the American River Parkway that gets you into the foot hills where you can do several thousand feet of climbing on a six hour ride. We have several clubs that put on great races, Davis Bike Club, Sacramento Golden Wheelmen, Team Bicycles Plus/Sierra Nevada, and Rio Strada. Sacramento Cyclocross is booming, Folsom Rodeo Cross is a hoot and a half, the Prairie City MTB Series is getting like 500 entries on Wednesday Nights and the Folsom Cyclebration is continuing to grow.
NCCN: What was the moment that you first fell in love with racing at the track?
Alleger: My totally awesome wife Katie Stonebraker and I started racing at Hellyer in 2007 with the intention of building a track in Sacramento. We were immediately struck by the camaraderie of the athletes and the selfless passion of the folks running the programs. In 2009 we went to Portland to race the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge. That’s where I officially fell in love with track racing and decided that Sacramento is perfect for this kind of riding. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association is a hands on grass roots organization that really cares for its riders. With the great work of Brian Joder’s Bicycling Events and Gene Redmon’s TimeYourRace system the ground work for year round quality local racing is laid. All we really need is a Velodrome, a BMX track, and a twilight crit series and we could have one of the best rider development pools in the country.
NCCN: What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in this effort to build the track in Sacramento?
Alleger: If I had to pick one it would be that I have managed to capture the imagination of our community. I spent 3-4 years figuring out how the process should happen so that when I went public I would have a cohesive big picture of the dream to share. It’s all about dreamers and believers baby!
NCCN: At what stage will the project, to build a velodrome in Sacramento, reach an unstoppable momentum?
Alleger: I’ve been living with and feeding this monster for over five years now. It’s already unstoppable.
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