US Track Nationals – Beyond the Omnium
Track cycling has seen some significant changes in recent years with the Olympics focusing on the International Omnium and Team Sprints & Pursuits. USACycling has invested in each discipline, with Jamie Staff more than rejuvenating the sprinting programs … he’s designing a renaissance. The endurance programs aren’t really seeing the same kind of investment or expertise, but with a rider like Sarah Hammer carrying the program … you don’t need much of either. For now.
JStaff is more than a legend, he’s a transformative figure. He is, without doubt, the best investment in US track cycling made by the organizing body in decades. Staff does more than just train and mentor the top athletes … anyone who has seen him work with people at the LA facility have seen how accessible and approachable he is. This man doesn’t just top-end his success, he grows it from the foundations. That’s the real deal.
The men’s Team Sprint national title was won by the Project London boys, with Dean Tracy firing off the starting lap, Michael Blatchford swinging big for lap 2, and phenom Kevin Mansker bringing it home for gold. The Team Sprint is an event of such specialization that teams just have to be swimming in support to be able to properly train and prepare for the world stage. The Project London boyz aren’t swimming in support, but there is a small wading pool they have access to … and it’s still paying off pretty huge. The PL-Boyz came close to cracking 45 seconds for the Team Sprint, which is respectable, but they’ll have to go a second faster if they want to compete with the top-end nations. They’ll get there.
Tracy is a crack starter – getting tutelage from perhaps the best Team Sprint starter ever with Jamie Staff. Blatchford is coming back from a 2-year hiatus, and may be the glue that keeps that team together. And Mansker is, quite literally, the fastest man in the US … and maybe the hungriest. The team has youth, they have speed, and they have the guidance to make a big splash on the 2012 Olympics. Here’s cheering for them.
The women’s Team Sprint was won by the Pan Am Games-bound duo of Liz Reap-Carlson and Madalyn Godby. They were just a tenth faster than the team of Tela Crane and Cristin Walker. There is a lot of parity amongst the young American sprinters on the women’s scene … with Dana Feiss, Anissa Cobb, and Jennifer Valente all very talented and making big sacrifices to step up and compete on the bigger stages. They are all young and hungry racers, and if there was just enough resources from the organizing body to support a full women’s sprint program in the US … we could see big things in the near future. Well, we will anyway – because these women have a huge amount of potential.
The Men’s Match Sprint was won by the revamped, repaired, and resplendent Michael Blatchford. But it was his Project London teammate Kevin Mansker who posted the fastest time in the qualifying 200m TTs … with a criminally quick 10.3 … fully 2 tenths faster than the next qualifier. Mansker is potential incarnate – when you look up the word ‘potential’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Kirk Whiteman holding a picture of Kevin Mankser.
But match sprinting is more than just pure speed – it’s also tactics, experience, and nerves of cooled steel. And that defines Giddeon Massie. Massie would take down Mansker in textbook rounds in the semi-finals. Massie would flick, dive, draw out and sting like he was channeling Ali’s Thrilla in Manilla. It was beautiful to watch.
The other semi-final sprint would see Jimmy Watkins try to do the same to Blatchford, but be overcome by the young juggernaut. Watkins would mirror Massie’s first ride in the semi’s, holding Blatchford high through turn 1 and 2, flicking Blatchford to keep him at bay and on the defensive. But Blatch would commit completely to his acceleration and sweep past a surprised Watkins, bolting past him with electric rail quickness. It was magnificent.
The final would be Massie and Blatchford engaged in a superb duel of wits and horsepower, tactics and speed. To try and paint the play by play is beyond this fan’s ability – just let it be remembered that both men earned applause, loud and prolonged.
The women’s sprint title was a repeat match between Dana Feiss and Cristin Walker. Feiss is the bulldog, the fighter, the unstoppable force clad in spandex. Feiss has more tenacity and pure power than any rider on the circuit today. The 22-year old has the potential and work ethic to be molded into an international stand-out … and the 2016 Olympics is absolutely on the horizon. Walker is the quick, the elegant Texas Bell who is the most feared rider in the women’s sprinting ranks. She has an acceleration that can drop like a hammer and when you race her, you’re always trying to grow eyes out the back of things.
Feiss would take the Gold with two strong, fitness burns against Walker, and the Bronze would go to the youngstar, Maddy Godby. Godby would take on diehard Jen Featheringill in the bronze match, and it would be a good battle between the veteran and former Junior Champ. Godby is a big talent, and one to watch in the coming years.
The Keirins were crazy town for the sprinters … with Massie ridiculously hungry for redemption after the Team and Match Sprints. In the final, Massie would pop off a daring move underneath, then squiggle out of a tiny whole, and come over the top of the always brave and front-running Matt Baranoski. Last year, Baranoski led from the gun and held off all-chargers as Massie, Watkins, and Lakatosh bumped and bluffed each other above the stayer’s line. This year, Mansker and Lakatosh would swing up, while Daniel Sullivan and Massie would stay low. Baranoski would ignore them all and try and repeat with a drive in the pole … for 600meters.
With a final few meters of desperate kick, Massie would just come over the top of Baranoski to take back his title as National Keirin Champ. What a battle.
For the women, Feiss would take the race home like she bought it online, pre-wrapped and postage-stamped. Shelby Reynolds would snag Feiss’ wheel, and each would push and wiggle their way to keep position as first Jennifer Valente, then Nissy Cobb would make big runs for the front. Playing it cagey and quiet until the final 50m would be Missy Erickson out of Durango and Erin Glover out of Portland. Each surfed and survived all the mayhem and changing circumstances to steal past the rest and take 3rd and 4th respectively
Erickson is another young rising sprinter star for the future, and Glover is a punchy, saavy bike-handler who is gaining huge grounds in fitness and confidence. Watch for both in next year’s track scene. But it would be a final battle between Feiss and Reynolds for the gold. Feiss will need to expand her tactical repertoire in the coming years, as Reynolds almost … almost exploited Feiss’ penchant for leading it out long in this year’s Keirin Final. Reynolds would put in a stellar surge in the final meters to come within spitting distance of a massive upset. Let’s just say the endure-riders were jumping up and down in those final few milli-seconds.
The men’s and women’s Scratch Races were held on the same day as the Omnium finale … so, quite a few riders were doubling up and knuckling down in both events. Of course, leading the charge was the legend, the epic Jame Carney. Carney would suffer mightily in his kilometer Omnium event held after the Scratch Final … but, it would be worth it, as he was able to repeat his Scratch title from 2010. The men’s race was fast, with moments of aggression – but, for the most part it was a tactician’s last 8 laps, as the attackers did their flaming best to burn off the field, and the sprinters floated and focused on the wheels to follow for best positioning as the RPMs started to redline.
Rob Evans of McGuire Cycling was a late race hero, surging off the front in the final laps … but the inevitable speed brought it all back and with 1 lap to go it was Jame Carney and Ian Moir, shoulder to shoulder, in a tank emptying drag race. Stephen Pelaez and Jackie Simes were in contention and busting guts to match the lead two … but, it would be Carney with his patented final 10 pedalstroke seated acceleration that would fling him forward and free of the group – repeating his title as Scratch Champion.
For the women – the Scratch Race was one of the best events of the week, with pursuit specialist Kim Geist getting away and lapping the field for a well-earned victory. The action started early with Chicago’s Dr. Val Brostrom pushing off the front, and as soon as she was caught – it was attack after attack. World-famed Sarah Hammer was a late addition to the field, and she spent no time waiting to uncork her patented power. Hammer would put in a crushing acceleration that split the field and sent everyone into the hurtlocker. Her teammate and defending champ, Jennie Reed, was in the field and stalking like a shark in shallow waters. With Hammer laying down the weakening blows to the field, how could anyone contest Reed’s finishing speed?
With courage – it was Geist. Countering Hammer’s attack, Kim Geist would put in a heroic solo effort and immediately put herself deep into the cave to find enough pain to take the lap. She would get her lap, and a chasing duo of Val Brostrom and Cari Higgins would try and do the same. Brostrom and Higgins would trade pulls for lap after lap, but Geist would truly earn the win by going to the front for some 7 straight laps to bring the duo back … close enough in the final laps that Jennie Reed would wait no longer and launch away a blistering 3 lap powerstrip. Reed would stay away for the silver, then Hanan Alves-Hyde would punch out for a clear and away 3rd, followed by Erin Glover who would erupt out of the field to snake a strong 4th on the day. Great race.
The other mass start – the bigger brother of the Scratch – was on Saturday Night and absolutely electrified the 1200 fans in attendance. The women’s Points was won with a lapping effort put in by Beth Newell. Newell would take the first sprint and then time her lapping effort to perfection mid-way through the race. The RideClean/Care4Cycling trio of Erica Allar, Colleen Hayduk, and Hanan Alves-Hyde would put in a strong, strong bid to put one of their riders in the jersey, but would come just a bit short after a long week of racing. Both Hayduk and Alves-Hyde raced both the Omnium and women’s Scratch … and Erica Allar had maybe the more draining responsibilities of doing race support for both them and teammate, Jame Carney. Honestly, I don’t know how Allar did it. What a cool chic.
The other team working to take the jersey was the PB&Co duo of Cari Higgins and Lauren Tamayo. Both were active, and working hard during the points race – but wouldn’t be able to overcome the in-form Beth Newell. Jen Triplett and Lauren Hall would round out the podium, and the crowd was psyched and primed to see more Points racing … and boy, were they in store for it.
The men’s Points Race was a grueling 160 laps (after being listed as 120 laps on the schedule … way to go, USAC) and would amazingly come down between 4 riders in the final lap … final meters of the race. And man, were those last laps crazytown.
Tied on points into the final sprint, the race looked to be between Jame Carney and Ian Moir. Moir is a huge prospect for the future, as he’s already got international experience and shows the complete package of fitness, speed, and tactics. But, with single digits remaining in the race – Daniel Holt would launch away for a lapping effort … and a repeat of his 2010 win.
The field, that late in the race, was decimated and barely sustaining itself on life-support. Moir and Carney were in a chess match as to who was going to chase Holt … while, the resilient, the brawler Jake Hansen out of Portland and the Cyclisme program would put in one last massive effort to bridge across solo to Holt. The crowd was going nutz.
If Holt and Hansen would lap, they would be 1st and 2nd. If they didn’t, the title would go to either Carney or Moir … whichever rider finished ahead of the other in the final sprint.
And that’s when controversy fit all over the shan.
The duo of Holt and Hansen got the bell for the final lap, while behind were a chasing group of 4, and the defined pack of 11 riders, including Moir and Carney. Holt and Hansen were deemed to have caught the pack in turn 3 … AFTER the chasing 4 had already crossed the finish line, and ?during/after? that group had split. So, those 4 riders were then leaders on the lap for scoring … and yet the “pack” was also given the bell for one more lap, as well. With Holt and Hansen in it.
It was a crucible call … made in the moment, and challenged by Carney and Moir immediately. But the officials held to their decision – and Holt and Hansen were given the lap, Carney given the bronze as he would finish ahead of Moir on the ‘final’ lap. Very, very interesting.
Carney and Moir would continue their dominance of the endurance events, taking the men’s Madison in style – while the women’s Madison would come down to one final throw and sprint between the winners Lauren Hall and Kate Wilson over Val Brostrom and Jen Triplett.
Great way to end the week. Can’t wait for 2012.
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