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When Racing Returned to Kyiv's Velodrome Amidst the Chaos of War

kyiv velo tk
Racing Returns to the Kyiv VelodromePete Kiehart

Nestled amongst a patchwork of crumbling pre-war apartment buildings and gleaming, modern skyscrapers of Ukraine’s capital city is the Київський велотрек (Kyiv Cycle Track). Happen by on any fair-weather day, and you’ll likely to see riders zipping up the steeply banked walls, as onlookers gawk from a chic restaurant adjacent the track.

Constructed in the Russian Empire’s twilight years, the 110 year-old track is nearly 300-meters long. It has survived Soviet rule, occupation by the Nazis, four revolutions, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Indeed, the velodrome’s recent history stands as a metaphor for Ukraine itself.

In the early 2000s, the велотрек was designated as a monument of history and architecture by Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture. While this should have protected the track, it was partially dismantled in a bid to convert the space into a commercial property by 2009. In the wake of Ukraine’s 2013 Euromaidan Revolution, citizens rode the euphoric anti-corruption wave and wrested control of the space back from the “paws of some businessmen, who wanted just to ruin the track and build a shopping mall,” as one of the track’s volunteers, Yevheniia Kharlamova, puts it.

Last summer, the velodrome hosted the first competitions since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. As spring comes to Kyiv, and despite the war and the regular whine of air raid sirens, the track continues to be a focal point of Kyiv’s sporting and cultural life.

kyiv velo tk
Ukrainian National team riders train at the Kyiv Cycle Track on June 22, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Above them looms a cycling-themed mural painted in 2016 by Canadian artist Emmanuel Jarus.Pete Kiehart
a cyclist swaps parts out on a bike
Karolina Kelyuh, a member of the Ukrainian National Team, changes her gearing between training sessions.Pete Kiehart
a group of people in cycling gear watch a race
From left, competitors Oleksiy Bazurnyi, Ivan Chervichii, Polina Kolotylo, youth trainer and competitor Yurii Konoval and Oleksandr Chemeris warm up and watch from the pits as time trials take place.Pete Kiehart
a group of cyclists race at a velodrome
Riders enter the first turn at the northern end of the Kyiv Velodrome during a scratch race.Pete Kiehart
a case containing bike parts and tools
A mechanic’s in the pits between races. Pete Kiehart
a group of cyclists race around a velodrome
Competitors warm up before day 2 of the first competition since Russia’s invasion on June 25, 2023.Pete Kiehart

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