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Summertime: A Guide to Entertainment, Activities And Excursions : Discoveries : * If you've exhausted all of the usual tourist spots, it's time to visit some destinations along the unbeaten path. : Big Wheels on a Fast Track


Let bicycling coach Rick Denman tell you why the Encino Velodrome is a good place to watch the races on a warm summer evening.

"Athletes wearing only spandex suits, going elbow-to-elbow at close to 40 miles per hour," Denman said. "It tends to be very exciting and you're very close to the action."

The outdoor track in Balboa Park was the site of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Trials and plays host to U.S. Cycling Federation-sanctioned races every Saturday at 7 p.m.

Admission is charged for those events, but on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. visitors can watch several hours of training races for free.

Men and women riders of all ages come from throughout Southern California with their bright jerseys and streamlined bicycles.

Spectators sit in stands along the home stretch of the banked concrete oval.

Various types of races are run. The sprint combines strategy and bursts of speed. The Madison is cycling's risky version of tag-team wrestling.

There are points and scratch races, where a pack of riders goes all out to the finish.

"The idea is to give people a chance at all types of races," Denman, the program director. "You get to see good racing."

For those who feel a more personal need for speed, the velodrome periodically offers beginner racing classes.

The Encino Velodrome is behind the baseball fields at Oxnard Street and Louise Avenue. Admission on Saturday nights is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and youths under 18. Children under 9 are free. Tuesday races are free. Information: (818) 881-7441.

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