Where We Live: Alpenrose Velodrome

You can thank Frans Pauwels for helping build the track

A cyclist on the Alpenrose Velodrome track in Portland, July 2017. (KOIN)
A cyclist on the Alpenrose Velodrome track in Portland, July 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of cyclists from all over the world competed at the Alpenrose Velodrome this weekend, on the 50th anniversary of one of the best bike tracks in the nation.

You can thank Frans Pauwels for helping build the track that is part of where we live.

“This was a way of also putting biking on the map here in the Portland area,” Dirk Pauwels, Frans’ son tells KOIN 6 News.

Born in the Netherlands in 1918, Frans Pauwels was a professional racer on the Dutch national team as a teenager and competed in major races including the Tour de France.

Cyclists on the Alpenrose Velodrome track. (KOIN)

His career was interrupted in 1940 by World War II, when the Germans invaded the Netherlands.

Pauwels retired in 1960 at age 32 and three years later brought his wife and three children to Portland, where a cousin gave him a job pumping gas. He eventually worked as a mechanic at Kissler’s Cyclery in Portland, a shop he ended up buying.

Pauwels convinced Alpenrose Dairy to build a dirt track, the predecessor to today’s track. It was a hit, so Pauwels went to Alpenrose again, getting $30,000 to build the Olympic-style velodrome.

They finished it just in time for Pauwels and then Portland mayor Terry Shrunk to bring in the 1967 National Bike Racing Championships.

“That was his goal, because he is what they call the ‘grandfather of biking’ in Portland. He was the first commuter, back in 1961-’62,” Dirk Pauwels says.

Pauwels lobbied Salem for better biking paths and wider roads. His efforts led to the bike infrastructure that Portland is known for.