2013 Elite Track Nationals: Rahsaan Bahati

Just 2hrs up the road from me is the Giordana Velodrome. A brand new facility in Rock Hill, SC that hosted the 2013 Elite Mass Start Track Nationals. This is a scene you have to see to believe. Dozens of men and women with quad muscles the size of mobile homes on fixed gear bikes flying around a concrete 250m track inches away from each other at speeds up to 42mph. It’s about as close to a modern day gladiator coliseum you’re going to get.

Rahsaan Bahati at the Giordana Velodrome

Racing on tight circuits is Rahsaan Bahati’s specialty, and this isn’t the first time he has been in front of my camera. Since a 2010 photoshoot we’ve become friends, so naturally if he’s coming to compete in my backyard, I’m going to pick up my camera. I covered Rahsaan during the Elite Mass Start National Championships.

The calm before the storm.
The calm before the storm.

The Chocolate Rocket makes his entrance.
The Chocolate Rocket makes his entrance.

Pre-race pump, probably listening to Lupe Fiasco, or One Direction... or something inbetween.
Pre-race pump, probably listening to Lupe Fiasco, or One Direction… or something inbetween.

Track racing echos back to the yesteryear of racing with it's simple approach of fixed gear bikes. The accessories that attach to the bikes haven't changed much either.
Track racing echos back to the yesteryear of racing with it’s simple approach of fixed gear bikes. The accessories that attach to the bikes haven’t changed much either.

A brand new outdoor track yields extraordinary shots.
A brand new outdoor track yields extraordinary shots.

The Elite Women making 1 of grueling 110 laps around the 250m velodrome.
The Elite Women making 1 of grueling 110 laps around the 250m velodrome.

Justin Williams (left) and Rahsaan Bahati (right) warming up before the race.
Justin Williams (left) and Rahsaan Bahati (right) warming up before the race. The decorated Justin is no stranger to being up front either. Looks like I’ll be adding 1 more to my short list of athletes I follow.

The velodrome's banking is 42.5 degrees to keep the speed up around a short 250m track.
The sun drops and the men’s race begins. The velodrome’s banking is 42.5 degrees to keep the speed up around a short 250m track.

Justin and Rahsaan working together just inches apart at speeds close to 40mph.
Justin and Rahsaan working together just inches apart at speeds close to 40mph.

Rahsaan in the zone, head tucked, and grinding out laps.
Rahsaan in the zone, head tucked, and grinding out laps.

Justin Williams rocking a sweet kit from Endo Customs.
Justin Williams rocking a sweet kit from Endo Customs

Nearing the end of 150 laps.
Nearing the end of 150 laps.

Rahsaan cooling down next to the massive 42.5 degree concrete banked wall.
Rahsaan cooling down next to the massive 42.5 degree concrete banked wall.

In all seriousness, Rahsaan is not only an extremely accomplished cyclist, he’s a stand up guy with a genuine heart to inspire kids. His Bahati Foundation has supported under-served youth communities through inspirational speaking and cycling outreach programs. That may sound like a generic marketing pitch, but his actions speak louder than words. Take the words from a complete stranger, Tim Granger, that witnessed Bahati during the 3rd day of racing at the National Championships:

“Crash and 3 flats … and still had enough points for 3rd place … but with all the mechanicals found themselves down a lap. With about 10 laps to go … they made a move to get the lap back … ended up about 20 meters short … one more lap and they would have been on the podium. It was amazing to watch … but what impressed me the most? After having the worst possible luck in a National Championship race where they clearly had the legs … Rahsaan rode two or three laps to cool down and then headed straight to the rail on the back stretch to talk to the kids again! I’m sure he was bitterly disappointed about the race, but he flashed that smile and talked to the kids for about 10 minutes … talked about school and hard work … listened about their bike ride earlier in the day. As a parent, you talk to your kids all the time about character, discipline, and hard work … in 60 minutes … he and Justin put on a clinic for the kids. 1 hour … 50k (31miles) … a crash and 3 flats … 20 meters from the podium … how many people do you know that would handle that with such grace?”

Rahsaan taking time to chat with the kids during a Madison National Championship race the next day.

  • David Taylor

    Rahsaan–so pleased to meet you. Our bike club was totally blown away by the experience! Looking forward to seeing you again in Greenville next spring.