By Dave Campbell
Three Consecutive records close out a spectacular Alpenrose Velodrome Blazing sunny skies and blustery winds greeted the riders on Sunday for the final day of the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge in Portland, Oregon.
The women’s competition kicked off with 200-meter time trials to begin the sprint tournament. U.S. Olympian Jennie Reed (Gregg’s-Trek-VW) was the top qualifier in 12.84, followed by Becky Quinn (Southbay Wheelmen) in 13.24 and Alpenrose local Heather VanValkenberg in 13.38.
The men, meanwhile, began what would prove to be arguably the most spectacular event of the weekend, the keirin. Three heats of eight riders each, followed by three reps, would bring nine fast men out of the hurly-burly for the afternoon’s final. The spectator-packed stands were witness to every bit of the leaning, jockeying, bumping, switching, and head-butting that keirin racing is famous for in each of these heats.
Malaysian Olympian Josiah Ng (Bike Central) controlled the first heat with Canadian Joel Regimbald (Juventus-System 5) close behind. Four-time defending AVC keirin champion Stephen Alfred (Wyndham Hotels) dominated the second heat with local hero Stephen McLaughy (Bike Central) in second. The final heat was won by U.S. Olympian Gideon Massie (Cody Racing) in front of the surprising Kelyn Akuna (Shaw’s-Garden City Cyclists). Canadians Matt Chater (Black Dog Racing) and Matt Barlee (Dr. Walker Track Team) and young gun Carl Boucher (Cody Racing) won each of their respective repechage heats to join a stacked final.
In the women’s sprint competition, top qualifiers Reed, Quinn, VanValkenberg, and U.S. Olympian Erin Mirabella (Bicycle Johns-Serious Cycling) advanced out of the first round, with local Miranda Duff (Team Rubicon) and Canadian keirin Champion Auna-Brit Ericksen (Independent) joining the fray via the rep heats.
In the semifinals, Reed and Quinn won their respective heats decisively while Ericksen’s impressive acceleration on the backstretch punched her ticket to the three-up final. Reed dominated the match-sprint final, controlling the entire ride from the front, with Quinn nearly a bike length behind at the line, trailed by Ericksen.
Under a baking afternoon sun with temperatures in the 90’s, nine wide bodies spread across the front stretch for the keirin final. A crash with four laps to go took out Akuna and forced a restart with the remaining eight. The motor kept the speed very high throughout and the riders remained mostly single file with Bike Central duo McLaughy and Ng controlling the front in near team-time-trial fashion until Massie made a huge acceleration as the motor pulled off.
Ng seemed to remain in control of the race, accelerating smoothly and compactly into the lead on the backstretch, until an incredible jump by Alfred brought the big man – seemingly out of it – into victory by half a wheel right on the line.
The women’s 5-mile scratch race saw a gutsy mid-race attack by local legend Larssyn Staley (Andeer Interlon Scott). The former junior world champion racked up nearly $100 in lap-leader money for her efforts, but was caught just eight laps from the end by a surging Mirabella.
Sprint specialist Reed opened the hostilities at the bell only to be impressively overtaken by the explosive Quinn, with Mirabella hanging on for third. Quinn also clinched the weekend oOmnium with 34 points in front of Reed and Mirabella, both with 24.
Kenny Williams (First Rate Mortgage) ruled the men’s 90-lap points race. The most aggressive rider was Mike Garrett (Kahala-LaGrange), who after many attacks finally succeeded in staying off the front with his breakaway partners from Saturday’s scratch race, Williams and Walker Starr (Team Rubicon). Starr blew up contesting a prime and a series of riders then bridged up, mostly one at a time: local Molly Cameron (Veloshop), Scott Allen (Team Rubicon), Adrian Hegyvary (Recycled Cycles), Leif Clarke (Benaroya Research Institute), and Giovanni Ray (Cytac-Velo Europa).
After a long struggle against a determined field led by Team Rubicon and Taylor Kneuven (Broadmark Capital), these seven took a lap, with Williams dominating the points sprints and winning most of the cash primes as well. Garrett’s attacks netted 35 points to Williams’ 52 with Cameron a popular third with 24. Williams’ victory cemented his qeekend omnium win as well with 29 points in front of Garrett and Allen, both with 15.
The traditional AVC finale is the Alpenrose flying lap, an event Alfred has won in 1999, 2003, and 2004, missing the track record last year by a heart-breaking .01 second. With a lap being 268 meters around, plus bankings of 42 degrees, knowing how to ride the track as well as incredible amounts of power are needed to lay down the 39-mph-plus speeds required to win.
With just the 37-year-old age-defying sprinter left to ride, Ng led with 15.35, missing Jeff LaBauve’s 2002 track record by .11 second and Massie lay second in 15.60. Sporting a visored aero’ helmet for the first time, and a long-sleeved black skinsuit adorned with Cheetah spots, Alfred stalked the bankings as last starter with the noisy crowd on its feet. When the dust had settled, the Trinidad native had his record – a blistering 15.10 and another AVC victory.
Surprising the announcers, the first woman on the track was Reed, blasting her way to the top time and a new track record of 17.09. The old record of 17.21 by Jen Evans dated back to the 1997 EDS cup. Second rider up was Mirabella, posting the day’s second-best time of 18.04 in front of Annette Hanson (First Rate Mortgage), the national pursuit titlist and defending AVC Flying Lap champ, who rode 18.27.
The reason for this change in starting order was shortly made clear when officials set up the sponges for another record attempt. Mirabella and Reed had gone early so they could join Quinn (their anchor) to challenge the 2002 track record of 1:01.90 held by Mirabella, JoAnne Kiesanowski, and Suzie Tignor in the Olympic Sprint. The three stars of the AVC rode together efficiently and powerfully as if they had been teammates for years, blasting to 1:01.29 and closing out a spectacular weekend with yet another track record.