Elizabeth Salaam 12:06 p.m., May 21
Over the weekend, several local athletes competed for national track cycling championships at the Velo Sports Center in Carson. The arena, built to the specifications of World Cup track cycling, is a regular venue for the United State's national championships. Similar to the velodrome in Morley Field, although made of wood and much more aggressively constructed to modern standards, the 250-meter oval track in Carson is banked at 46 degrees in the corners, which rise twenty feet above the floor at the bottom of the track.
Kevin Schiller, racing for DNA cycling against an ultra-competitive field, finished top ten in both his events. He collected an 8th place finish in the scratch race(a basic race in which the first person to cross the finish wins) and a tenth in the points race (where riders sprint for points at set intervals during the course of the 40km event). Schiller, who races as an amateur and trains at the track here in San Diego, spent the summer preparing for nationals and he performed well against the best riders that the country has to offer. The winner, Bobby Lea, represented the USA in the London Olympics, which demonstrates how elite the field was.
Lucas Binder of the SKLZ-Swami's cycling team also competed the in the points race and described it as ridiculously hard when I caught up with him at In n Out on the way home from LA.
The biggest winner from San Diego was teenage racing prodigy Jennifer Valente, who won the gold medal in the women's keirin (a sprint event wherein riders jockey for position behind an electric pacing bike until the final six hundred meters of all-out sprinting). Valente has won national and world championships as a junior, but the keirin is her first championship on the track as an adult. She started racing only a few years ago and it's clear that the keirin win over the weekend is only the first in a long line of championships for Jen in the years to come.
The final competitor from San Diego, Chris Blevins of Pacific Beach, rode the men's 1km time trial (one of the most physically demanding events in cycling) in an impressive 1 minute and 11 seconds.
Full results, photographs, and video are already available on USA Cycling's webstie at: http://www.usacycling.org/2012/elite-track-nationals