Bringing Home the Hardware

Catherine Watkins Higher Gear Gearhead Velodrome Track RacingThe Ed Rudolph Velodrome 2013 Awards Dinner was this past Sunday evening. Higher Gear’s own Catherine Watkins just about had to rent a U-haul trailer to carry home her awards.

After a successful season at the track, Catherine came home with the more hardware than anyone else that night. Anyone who knows Catherine won’t be surprised at her success, even when they learn Catherine is still fairly new to track racing.

While Catherine has been racing bikes since college, she’s been racing mountain, road and, more recently, cyclocross. The 2013 marked only her second season on the track.

Catherine first tried the track in 2012 when Francine Haas partnered with Higher Gear for a track clinic at the Northbrook Velodrome. Catherine continued to ride at the Velodrome for the 2012 season, learning the ropes as she went. “It helps that I have a good cycling background, but the thing that helped me out most was riding with the team last year. Riding with someone like Francine made such a difference for me.”

Catherine Watkins Higher Gear Gearhead Velodrome Track Racing Francine Haas Lynn RivierWorking with a team, Catherine learned team tactics which she used when her own points weren’t at stake. When the rest of the team catted up, Catherine had planned to do the same, but Francine suggested Catherine take another year at 4’s (which is meant for those still learning) and enjoy a season with some previous racing under her belt.

And what a season it was for Catherine! She was neck-and-neck all year with another Cat 4 rider, making every race and, ultimately, every point counted. “Every race mattered. We were so evenly matched, it really did matter every race. Out of the two hundred plus points I collected over the season, it came down to two points at the end.”

Catherine Watkins Higher Gear Gearhead Track RacingFighting hard for those additional two points earned Catherine the Rider of the Year (ROTY) award for Cat 4 Women. “I’m pretty proud of that one.”

What made the award even more special was the camaraderie of the season. Despite fighting for points, says Catherine, “We had fun. We were competing, but we remained so friendly and had fun with it.”

In addition to her ROTY trophy, Catherine also brought home seven medals. Her two gold medals were for the Cat 4 Kieren and the Cat 4 Points races. Her three silver were for Cat 4 Scratch, 500m Time Trial and Women’s 1-2 Madison. Her two bronze medals were for the 2k Individual Pursuit and the Match Sprint. Catherine is especially proud of the medals she collected in the Women’s Opens categories, where she was also competing against Cat 1, 2 and 3 women, describing those awards as “much more legit.”

Catherine Watkins Higher Gear Gearhead Velodrome Track RacingCatherine Watkins Higher Gear Gearhead Velodrome Track Racing Catherine Watkins Higher Gear Gearhead Velodrome Track Racing

Catherine admits that track cycling can be intimidating to the uninitiated. “It can be scary and some tracks can be so intimidating.” She suggests trying a clinic and definitely getting up to Northbrook.



“It’s so accessible. It’s so easy to try, especially at the Northbrook Velodrome. It’s unintimidating there. It’s a really good track to learn on. It’s not aggressive in the way it’s set up. You can rent a bike there. There are clinics two nights a week. They offer beginners racing.” She adds, “Most of the people who ride track are eager to get new people involved. At the beginning of April, riders are looking for new people to take under their wing.”


Catherine Watkins Higher Gear Gearhead Velodrome Track Racing


With several races each evening, track offers fun for both racers and spectators alike. “It’s fun stuff. Track is really neat – even as a spectator. If you don’t know what’s going on, just wait five minutes. Either you’ll figure it out or we’ll be on to the next race.”




The 2013 track season has ended. Come April, you’ll find Catherine back at the Velodrome. And she invites you to join her.


For more information on track cycling, check out the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook.




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