Nothstein and Ng tangle it up in San Jose
There aren’t a many Americans who can claim to have beaten Olympic gold medalist Marty Nothstein at his own game. These days, there are just two American sprinters who have done so on an American track and, as luck would have it, both were at San Jose’s Hellyer Velodrome April 21, for round 2 of the American Velodrome Challenge when Nothstein made his first U.S. track appearance for Mercury. And, as luck and ability would have it, one of the two pulled it off again.
Nothstein is something of the 800-pound gorilla of American track. Even when he’s not present, people keep him in mind and when he shows up it changes everything. Indeed, an anticipated match-up between sprinters Jeff Solt and Josiah Ng took on a whole new dimension when Nothstein arrived in San Jose and signed in for a full program racing: sprint, Keirin, points, miss-and-out… everything, save the endurance time trials. After rains washed out the first day’s program, race officials compressed the entire two-day schedule into a single eight-hour marathon session. It was gonna be a long day.
Nothstein knew this and in the sprint qualifying round went only as fast as necessary. Nothstein’s 11.43 was no world beater, but an experienced rider knows not to waste his efforts early. The time was good enough to squeeze past Solt (11.47) and Ng (11.65), putting Nothstein into the top seed. The qualifying order wasn’t a big surprise, nor was it a shocker that same sequence appeared on the podium after the last round of the keirin: Nothstein, Solt and then Ng.
Solt and Ng share a distinction among American trackies. They are the only two sprinters in America who have beaten Nothstein on an American track. Solt did it at the U.S. National Championship in 1994 and Ng pulled off a shocker in a memorable ride at last year’s Olympic Trials.
Not long after the keirin, the three again found themselves rolling to the line in a winner-take-all, two-lap ride for the men’s sprint title. No surprise there… At least at the start. Ng drew the obligation to lead out the ride with Solt and Nothstein in tow about three bike lengths separating each in that order. The early part of a sprint is like a game of poker: a bit of bluff and bluster in hopes of drawing your opponent into grabbing that early lead. Just half-a-lap into the two-lap contest, Ng tried an acceleration. But this was no brief bluff. Ng laid all of his cards out on the table and caught his two opponents unprepared. The ensuing chase was dramatic… though inadequate. Only in the final corner did Nothstein even pull close to Solt and as he passed him, Ng was already across the line.
Ng was ecstatic and dedicated this rare win to his coach, Mark Whitehead. But there was more racing ahead and Ng’s celebration didn’t last long. He faced off against Nothstein in the next race, a miss-and-out. This time, the outcome was different as Ng crashed hard on the backstretch just four laps into a race that Nothstein went on to win. No protest was lodged but several riders approached the two officials after the event and reported seeing the Olympian “deliberately come down on [Ng], taking out his front wheel.”
Chief referee Les Earnest said that since neither he nor the other official saw the alleged infraction, they could do little more than promise to pay closer attention next time … and “next time” came around sooner than expected.
By the end of the day, Nothstein had collected wins in the 10-mile scratch race, the miss-and-out and the keirin. He had a nearly insurmountable lead in the omnium as the program concluded with the men’s points race, the final opportunity for Ng and Nothstein to face off.
While Nothstein was watching the man who beat him in the sprint, the officials had their eyes on Nothstein. This time their vigilance paid off.
“We saw Nothstein deliberately come down on Ng in a sprint,” Earnest told VeloNews. “Ng was apparently watching for such a move this time and escaped onto the blue band. We relegated Nothstein for that maneuver.”
“On the whole, it appears that Nothstein was determined to intimidate or punish Ng for having beaten him,” Earnest added. “This is not the kind of conduct we should expect from a true champion. Ng, who is relatively small, was an emotional wreck by the end of the day.”
No controversy surrounded the abbreviated schedule of time trials and the events yielded three new winners in the series. John Kelly came closest to breaking the 5-minute barrier in the 4km pursuit (5:00.16), while Patrick Heidkamp surprised even himself with the kilometer win at 1:10.59. Martha Dunne (40.54) and Linelle Betts (41.27) each took their shot at the 37.5 second 500m TT time standard for an automatic national team camp invitation, but neither hit the mark this early in the season.
Though the women’s program attracted only seven riders, all but one had a national or world championship jersey or both in their wardrobe — and the odd one out is no less than a lieutenant in the Navy Seals.
National team sprinter Becky Quinn made her play to move atop the national rankings. Entering the competition as the top sprint seed (12.84 sec.), she claimed three very close races in the match sprint, miss-and-out and keirin, while Erin Mirabella and junior standout Sarah Hammer claimed the points race and five-mile scratch race respectively.
AMERICAN VELODROME CHALLENGE, ROUND II, Hellyer Velodrome, San Jose, CA. April 21.
200-meter time trial
1. Marty Nothstein, 11.43; 2. Jeff Solt, 11.47; 3. Josiah Ng, 11.65; 4. Roger Farrell,11.85; 5. Patrick Heidkamp,11.88.
1. Becky Quinn,12.84; 2. Suzie Tignor,13.00; 3. Sarah Hammer, 13.25; 4. Erin Mirabella, 13.43; 5. Ashley Kimmet13.67.
1. Ng; 2. Nothstein; 3. Solt; 4. Hiedkamp; 5. Angelo Martorell.
1. Quinn; 2. Tignor; 3. Mirabella; 4. Kimmet;5. Martha Dunne.
Men 1. Nothstein; 2. Solt; 3. Ng; 4. Morgan Montgomery; 5. Eric Gerolstein.
Women 1. Quinn; 2. Hammer; 3. Mirabella; 4.Tignor; 5. Kimmet
Kilometer time trial
1. Patrick Heidkamp,1:10.59; 2. Morgan Montgomery, 1:12.96; 3. Josh Kerkhof, 1:13.31; 4. Daniel Larson, 1:14.84; 5. Mark Rodamaker, 1:17.22.
500-meter time trial
1. Martha Dunne, 40.54; 2. Linelle Betts, 41.27.
4000-meter time trial
1. John Kelly, 5:00.16; 2.Rad Cunningham, 5:02.75; 3. Daniel Larson, 5:02.84; 4. Eric Sperling, 5:10.33; 5. Josh Kerkhof, 5:18.71.
10-mile scratch race
1. Nothstein; 2. Cunningham; 3. Gerolstein; 4. Larson; 5. Kelly.
Five-mile scratch race
1. Hammer; 2. Mirabella; 3. Quinn; 4. Kimmet; 5. Tignor.
Men 1. Nothstein; 2. Cunningham; 3. Mike McMahon; 4. Larson; 5. Joey D’Antoni.
Women 1. Quinn; 2. Mirabella; 3. Kimmet; 4. Hammer; 5. Tignor.
Men 1. Cunningham; 2. Kelly; 3. Larson; 4. Nothstein; 5. Ng.
Women 1. Mirabella; 2. Quinn; 3. Hammer; 4. Tignor; 5. Kimmet.
Men 1. Nothstein; 2. Cunningham; 3. Ng; 4. Larson; 5. Gerolstein.
Women 1. Quinn; 2. Mirabella; 3. Hammer; 4. Tignor; 5. Kimmet.