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Zoom in: South Chicago

There's a velodrome with 50-degree turns on an old U.S. Steel lot

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When Emanuele Bianchi moved to Chicago from his native Italy in 2006, he discovered that there's only one indoor velodrome in the United States—and it's in Los Angeles. So he went ahead and built his own. Located on an old parking lot owned by U.S. Steel at Burley and 86th, the Chicago Velo Campus allows riders of all ages to zoom around its 166-meter oval track—banked at a 50-degree angle—without having to worry about cars or stoplights. The fastest cyclists reach over 45 miles an hour.

The Velo Campus holds races every Sunday through September 2 (just missed it) and a bike clinic every Wednesday, but it's still an interim, open-air structure for now. When construction on a new road next to the campus is completed, development can move forward. If everything goes well, Chicago could have an indoor, 250-meter velodrome within three years, as well as a new Olympic-size pool, running track, and health club.

Bianchi asserts that a velodrome will make Chicago a greater cycling city. With proper training facilities, more U.S. cyclists can compete for gold in the Olympics, and "many youth will fall into it, amazed by the chance to become Olympians." He also hopes that the city's cycling culture in general will change, and that more people will bike for health, fun, and transportation.

Have a particular observation or favorite oddity about a neighborhood? E-mail it to zoomin@chicagoreader.com.

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