It was a fitting ending to a scorching weekend of international bike racing: Two days of head-to-head racing between the United States and Soviet national teams had come down to Sunday's final event in the USA/USSR Michelob Challenge at the Olympic Velodrome at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
The U.S. team was trailing, 71-54, going into the men's points race. Even if the United States won all nine of the possible points available in the race, the Americans would not win. Still, they rode hard in a stifling heat to win six points, thrilling a crowd of about 4,000.
The Soviets ended up winning the two-day dual meet, 74-60.
The Soviet team earned $15,000, the American team $10,000. Since the riders are amateurs, the money goes to the teams.
Olympic silver medalist Nelson Vails had a strong showing, winning the five-lap Keirin race by blowing past Konstantin Khrabstov in an exciting final. Vails was also second in the Win-and-Out race.
Janie Eickhoff, a senior at Los Alamitos High School, is an emerging star among American women. She is this year's junior world champion in the match sprint and individual pursuit, a win combination never before achieved in cycling.
It is an unusual double, equivalent to winning a 10,000-meter race and 200-meter race in track. Her coach says it is too early to say which way Eickhoff will go, sprints or road racing, but he says she's got the ability to excel at either.
Against the Soviets, Eickhoff finished third in the women's match sprint finals. Her inexperience showed in the heats, as she would take out too fast in one race and then fail to make a move soon enough in another.
"There were some errors in judgment, some tactical mistakes that I made today," Eickhoff said. "I hope I've learned from them. Just being here and racing against world champions is great. It helps to see what it takes."
Eickhoff trains on the Olympic track twice a week, and does some road work but, at the moment, she "can't wait for the weekend to end so I can take a rest."
Eickhoff said she is content to continue her multi-faceted approach to cycling for a few more years, at least until one discipline emerges as the dominant one.
"I'm not really sure what I want to be," she said. "There is so much money in road racing. I'd like to do some of everything (track and road) for a while."
The reigning queen of American racing, Connie Paraskevin Young, is winding up a difficult year. The three-time world champion was scheduled to race this event but pulled out after she developed severe head and neck pain during a practice run Thursday.
Paraskevin Young has been experiencing training-induced pain all season but still competed at the world championships in August. She could race, but had to pack her head and neck in ice in order to ease the mysterious pain.
"It got to the point where I couldn't see," she said.
Paraskevin Young has undergone various tests to determine the nature of the pain, but she has received no concrete diagnosis. She said she will stay in the area today for an appointment with the doctor who helped Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his migraine headaches.
Notes With the heat on the track and in the infield, coupled with the riders wearing tight-fitting, synthetic racing suits, the athletes were wilting in the heat. Scott Berryman summed it up for the riders--"I was roasting." . . . After the meet was over, the serious competition began. Bartering. The Soviets were the most aggressive wheeler-dealers, literally trading the shirts off their backs for American (and Japanese hardware)--personal stereos, cameras and some biking gear.