Our Australian rider Stephen Hall has now spent some weeks in the US, racing the track at Trexlertown, and also showing up for some crit racing in the greater Pennsylvania area. He obviously seems to like big American cars… and here is a short sum-up from Ttown.
By STEPHEN HALL
Friday night in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, is race night. Professional cyclists and budding amateurs file into the Valley Preferred Cycling Centre one by one, unpack their race bag, pump up their tires and hit the track as the warm sun slowly disappears beyond the bleachers. Riders fly around the track, discs whirring in unison as the crowd begins to fill the stands. The beer stand is busy, children line the bends and try catch a high five from their favourite cyclist as they pass. Around the pits the mood is excited, the younger riders chat nervously amongst themselves while the women hit the rollers. At 7.25pm however, the track is silent, the riders are still. Both the athletes and audience stand to attention and face the stage as the Star-Spangled Banner is performed by a local guest. For those two minutes the mood changes, the American flag flaps proudly in the breeze, some hold their hat over their chest. Everyone cheers as the final note rings out. The chaos resumes.
But this Friday night wasn’t like every track event held at the concrete crater, wasn’t like any other track event held around the world. On this particular evening, the “TTown Showdown”, riders wouldn’t know which event they would compete in until moments before the race started. Any pre-determined race tactic or strategical gear selection was completely thrown out the window. Instead, riders had to rely on quick tactical adjustments and either the “safe gear” option (in case of a gruelling points race / ten-mile event) or gamble with a bigger gear should a short scratch race or Motorpace event be revealed. Of the many possible scenarios, the four events chosen at random were: the longest lap, 18 lap scratch, 48 lap points and 15 lap snow ball.
A collective groan was heard on the rail as the first event, ‘the longest lap’ favoured only the true sprinters in the field while the enduros tried their best to both track stand, then attempt to hold the wheel of the fast men once the whistle blew. There were no surprises on the result sheet. The endurance riders would get their opportunity next however as the 2nd race revealed was an 18 lap scratch race. A break of 3 quickly formed and gained half a lap as the Argentinian riders did their best to be a nuisance and take the speed out of the bunch. I had to bide my time and wait for the right moment before I finally launched my attack. After a solid 4 lap chase I managed to bridge the gap with less than 2km remaining. The bunch was hot on our heels, led by Austrian champion Stefan Matzner, as we passed the finish with one lap remaining. I was patient in the sprint and managed to just sneak ahead of American Shane Kline with metres to spare.
The next race of the evening would be the 48-lap points race. I opted not to change my gear from early in the evening and paid the price in the later stages as the Argentinian team kept the race together for their rider Hugo Velanquez. One by one each attack was nullified. However, it was Kline, not the South Americans who snatched up the points. Matzner slipped off the front and picked up the last of the sprints including the double points on offer for the final lap. My optimism for another long event, now the entire field was on the ropes, was shut down instantly as we instead were left with a short Snowball race to conclude the evening, once the final envelope was opened. A few of the local stars snuck away early to pick up the majority of the points until the race exploded with one kilometre remaining. Riders were scattered across the velodrome as the last bell of the evening rung out and the weary stragglers made their way to the in-field.
All of the results were tallied together as the final omnium placings were decided and the last bouquet was given. Each race was tightly contested by riders from five different nations and although I was only able to pick up one victory for the evening, it is events like these that keep TTown well and truly alive after 40+ years. After the racing most of the riders meet at the local sports bar for dinner and a few drinks to unwind, preparing to do it all once again in a week’s time.