Godfather of cycling to be honoured

By Barbara Simpson, Sarnia Observer

Delhi's godfather of cycling will be remembered at his home away from home - the Forest City Velodrome - this weekend.

A memorial race in honour of Albert Coulier-Schelstraete is slated at the London track from Friday to Sunday. The lifelong cyclist and skilled designer of several world velodromes passed away at 92 in March.

While Coulier-Schelstraete was responsible for the World Championship and Montreal Olympic velodromes, the Forest City site holds special meaning. In 2004, the already 86-year-old designer envisioned a new cycling track at the former London Ice House. It was the last velodrome he built.

"When he started it then, at his age, he was hoping it was something that would build up young cyclists in the area and help them make it onto the international circuit," recalled son Bob Schelstraete.

Coulier-Schelstraete's dream came true. Cyclists Dave Byers, a native of LaSalette, and Mike Renneboog, a native of Delhi, have built a name for themselves in the circuit. Candice Vermeulen, of Delhi, is one of the top women training at the Forest City Velodrome.

"She's an up and coming star in the international circuit," Schelstraete said.

Growing up in the early 1920s, Coulier-Schelstraete, like other children, started cycling with a Royal Jenny bicycle and a sense of adventure. His love of riding his bike soon became a passion.

Coulier-Schelstraete eventually started riding a 300-mile route to train and compete in the Tupperville-Wallaceburg area on the weekend. He rose through the ranks, competing in the European circuit before an injury cut his career short.

When Coulier-Schelstraete returned to Delhi, he discovered a renowned Toronto designer of velodromes was having trouble building the Brantford Road track.

"He said, 'We started at 10 degrees and now we don't know how to get to 45 degrees,'" Coulier-Schelstraete recalled at a cycling exhibit last year.

Coulier-Schelstraete finished the track and discovered the secret to designing velodromes. Later he and his son Ron Schelstraete went into business together, crafting velodromes with the design secret that "up until this day we haven't told anyone."

The public is invited to the Coulier Memorial Race. Three divisions of cyclists, from under 15 to elite class, will be racing all weekend long. Start times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.