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How Junior Cameron Coleman Found His Passion and Success in Track Cycling

By: Jim Rusnak, TORRE  August 17, 2023

Cameron Coleman fell in love with track cycling at a young age and has become one of the fastest juniors in the nation.

Cameron Coleman grew up in the shadow of the Lexus Velodrome in Detroit, Michigan. He and his friends loved riding their bikes and doing wheelies outside the mysterious bubble dome in the middle of Tolan Park. But they never knew what was inside.

“I always thought it was a football field,” Coleman said. “I always wanted to go in there.”

Then, when he was 11, he and his friends ventured inside. It opened up a new world for Coleman, one he wasn’t too sure about at first. But the people inside showed him the ropes, and he started pacing around the track.

His friends quit coming, but Coleman stuck with it and fell in love with the sport.

“At first, I didn’t know what was going on,” Coleman said. “I was like, ‘I ain’t about to do that.’ But I just kept going (to the track) over and over again because it started to get fun. I liked how fast they were going – the speed. And the bikes were sweet. I just had to do it.”

Coleman then began training under coach Jon Hughes with the Lexus Velodrome team and soon found himself picking up more and more of that speed. He said he knew track cycling was the sport for him when he started competing.

“I was getting faster and faster, and I was winning,” Coleman said. “I was 11 years old, competing with 35-year-olds and winning. So that’s when it really clicked with me – ‘Like, dang! I’m really good at this sport.’ I just gotta keep going.”

Four years later, Coleman, who turns 15 in July, is one of the fastest junior track cyclists in the nation with a handful of Michigan state titles, two national titles and a 13-14 men’s national age group record for 500 meters, which he set last November with a time of 34.690.

He’s hoping to pick up another title when he competes at the 2023 USA Cycling Track National Championships, July 5-9 in Carson, Calif.

“My goals are to stay focused, work a little harder and win at Nationals,” said Coleman.” That’s why I’m training so hard.”

Coleman credits his success to “his training, his coaches and his legs.” He said his coaches at the Lexus Velodrome – Jon Hughes, Dale Hughes, Luke Cavender and Joaquin Kiley – are constantly pushing him to his limits.

“I’m not where I need to be yet, but (Jon Hughes) is getting me there,” Coleman said. “He’s never stopped going hard on me. He’s always pushing me over that limit, and it helps.”

As an example of how Hughes and his coaches push him, Coleman pointed to a recent 65-mile training ride he did “with all grown men.”

“And they were fast, but I hung in there,” Coleman said. “I finished it, and I got the last sprint. I’m always training. I have to train.”

He also credits his mother, Samantha Thomas, for helping him achieve everything he’s accomplished so far and puts her at the top of his list of role models, along with his coaches.

She said she had heard about track cycling before Cameron started racing, but she didn’t know it was an opportunity available in her Detroit neighborhood. She likes it because it’s less of a contact sport, and she’s less concerned about him getting hurt.

More importantly, she likes the spark it has ignited in her son.

“For me, it was the drive I saw in him,” Thomas said. “Once I saw him do it, it was like he just kept getting faster, and faster, and faster. It was natural for him. That was a plus-plus for me.

“We have the normal sports – basketball, football, baseball and everything, but cycling is rare here. Kids in the inner city don’t really get opportunities like this. To do something different was also a plus-plus for us.”

Thomas said how quickly her son immersed himself in the sport surprised her. About a month in, he came home talking about different bikes, naming different wheels and handlebars, and knowing how to put them on the bikes.

“It kind of took me by surprise,” she said.

One of the reasons she thinks Coleman became so good at track cycling is not only because he likes to go fast but also because of his competitive spirit – especially when someone tells him he can’t do it.

“He sees all these different people do this sport, and he’s like, ‘OK, I can do this, too, and be better at it,’” Thomas said. “He’s very competitive, and he’s always reaching to go faster and learn different things. He’s always been open. He listens. When you critique him, he’s all for it.”

As for the expense of track cycling, Thomas says she’s been fortunate that she has not had to buy a bike yet. Lexus, Rapha and the Children’s Foundation sponsor the Velodrome, which has so far been able to provide him with bikes for training and competitions.

“Over Covid time, he sprouted,” Thomas said. “He needed a bigger bike and some bigger wheels, and they were able to get him a brand new one with some good wheels, and I was really thankful for that. I was pricing them, and I could not find one that was under $9,000.”

As for future goals, Coleman and Thomas are starting to think about college. Coleman will be a sophomore in the fall, but Thomas knows how quickly those remaining three years fly by. So they’ve been looking at schools that might offer him a scholarship and prepare him for the cycling world’s big leagues.

In the meantime, Thomas is happy her son found a sport that reinforces that he can do anything he puts his mind to.

“You can test out anything you put your mind to and thrive – get to the highest point where you want to be,” Thomas said. “It keeps him busy, it keeps him moving, and he’s able to put his mind to something and be successful at it.”