By Dave Campbell
With dark clouds, cool temperatures, and the threat of rain looming, the men’s sprint qualifiers kicked off Saturday’s racing at the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge in Portland, Oregon.
Josiah Ng (Bike Central), the Malaysian Olympian and recent graduate of a Japanese keirin school, posted the fastest 200-meter time (11.44), just 0.1 second off Jeff LaBauve’s 2001 track record. Close behind was the ageless Stephen Alfred (Family Cycling Center), the AVC defending champion in the match sprint, with 11.46. Gideon Massie, the 2004 U.S. Olympian, was just behind in 11.57, and with nine more qualifiers packed in within three quarters of a second it promised to be a spectacular match-sprint tournament.
The women began their day with keirin qualifiers, and Olympic bronze medalist Erin Mirabella (Bicycle Johns Serious Cycling), Amara Boursaw (Gregg’s-Specialized), and world’s medalist Jennie Reed (Gregg’s-Trek-VW) easily advanced out of their respective heats to the final. Local powerhouse Miranda Duff (Team Rubicon), national scratch-race champion Becky Quinn (Southbay Wheelmen), and Canadian national keirin champ Auna-Brit Ericksen (Independent) came out of the repechage heats.
With such depth of talent, the field promised to be spectacular and it did not disappoint with a determined Reed controlling the motor and then just holding off a fast charging Quinn, with Boursaw finishing third another wheel behind.
The top four men’s qualifiers predictably advanced out of the first round, and local hero Stephen McLaughy (Bike Central) and Canadian strongman Keith Bruneau (Dr. Walker) came out of the reps, but then all bets were off, thanks largely to the tactics and sheer force of will of McLaughy.
When he went long (as in from the gun, kilo-style) in his semifinal against Alfred and Massie, Alfred’s chase sacrificed his own chances and Massie profited from the older man’s efforts to advance. Later, Ng thought he had Canadian newcomer Matt Barlee (Dr. Walkers) under control and backed off at the line, only to lose in a photo finish. McLaughery, meanwhile, sprung another long sprint in the rep, and with teammate Ng not taking up the chase, joined an improbable cast for the final that lacked the two fastest guys. Massie dominated the final in front of Barlee and McLaughery, but Sunday’s keirin is shaping up to be a grudge match.
The explosive Quinn was able to just hold off world-class keirin rider Reed to win the women’s miss-and-out. Probably the highlight of the event was when local legend and masters national champion Jen Featheringill (Bike Central) pipped Mirabella, who set the majority of the race’s tempo, on the very last elimination sprint en route to a third-place finish.
On the men’s side, Williams stayed in front the entire race, trying to keep an even pace, just like a pursuit. When it came time to close it out, the longtime Washington strongman jumped impressively to open up the gap on Ryan Miller (Greggs-Trek-VW) and Jason Allen (Team Rubicon).
By the time the men contested the 10-mile, the clouds were gone and the bright orange Rubicon team was out in force, accounting for nearly a third of the field. Kenny Williams (First Rate Mortgage) rarely left the front, winning both $100 crowd primes and topping the money-board in lap prizes as well. He also managed to take an early lap with Rubicon’s New Zealander Walker Starr and Mike Garrett (Kahala-LaGrange). The last prime took a lot out of Williams, though, and Starr triumphed in the sprint with Garrett close behind and a richer Williams in third.
The women’s points race saw the confirmation of one talent and the return to form of another. Late in the race, Olympian Mirabella won by taking a lap on the field in the company of local favorite Larssyn Staley (Andeer Interflon Scott), the former junior world points-race champion. Staley, still struggling to regain form after some devastating spring crashes in Europe, was thrilled to tag along, scoring 10 points to Mirabella’s 31. The tentative nature of the first half of the race allowed Quinn to rack up 44 points to take third.
Team racing brought the evening to a close. The longtime Marymoor combine of Williams and Miller dominated the men’s Madison, earning 29 points. Team Rubicon’s Kiwi pairing of Allen and Walker just held off a late charge by the Recycled Cycles Silver team of Leif Clark and Adrien Hegyvary (both with 18 points) to claim second. The Canadian Dr. Walkers team (Matt Chater, Bruneau and Barlee) won the Olympic sprint in a sizzling 55.01, with Chris Springer, Alfred, and Massie close behind in 55.16.