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Elspeth Huyett Strikes Gold at Track Nationals


(VISHRUT GARG)

To be honest, I still can't believe this is real! Last Friday, I won my first National Championship after 17 years of racing. I've been to the National Championships many times as a junior collecting silver and bronze medals, and I've been to Elite Nationals a handful of times and I was always in the mix - but it never panned out to something special. A stars and stripes jersey has always been my dream since I started racing, but as I have gotten older I wondered if it was still a dream worth chasing.

Elite Track Nationals were up in the air all Winter and Spring. Would the pandemic be under control? Would the original venue, an indoor velodrome in Los Angeles, be able to host them? In April, I started to hear some rumors that they would be moved outdoors and I hoped that they would come to my home track, the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania.

One morning, I got a very early call from Joan Hanscom, my friend, and the director of the velodrome, that Elite Nationals were going to be hosted at T-Town! This meant it was time to get to work. I was already training hard and had a plan to race all summer at the velodrome with my eyes on the Rider of the Year season-long competition, but I couldn't help but dream of a National Title.

I was slated to compete in four events- an elimination race, a scratch race, the omnium, and the points race. My coach told me that I had the potential to be on the podium in any event and that I could win if everything happened perfectly on the day. It turns out that day was the first day of racing!

The scratch race at Nationals is 10k long, which is 30 laps on our 333m velodrome. The field was full of strong sprinters, with a handful of more endurance-oriented riders who would want to make it hard. Throughout the race, there were a few small efforts at getting a breakaway formed, but nothing stuck. With 9 to go, my coach yelled at me to move up (I was casually hanging in the back, to be fair).

I moved towards the front of the field and I got myself on the wheel of one of the fastest riders in the bunch. The group moved down track and the speed started to pick up. I stuck on the wheel, I was only second in the field but I was boxed in with riders above me. I knew I had to stay patient and I hoped that if I stayed calm on this wheel I would be in medal contention. With one to go a rider came flying over the top - this was going to be a long sprint! The rider in front of me started sprinting and the box I was in opened up. I thought to myself, I think I can go faster, and I started to pass the rider. I was thinking to myself, I think I can get 2nd! Then I thought- why not try to win? Coming out of the final turn I went all in and in a drag race to the line, I came across and won!

I've lived in the Trexlertown area my whole life and the stands were filled with friends and family - almost everyone who had ever helped me with bike racing. It was the most amazing and heartwarming experience I have ever experienced.

This result sparked some confidence in me and I also scored a bronze medal in the omnium and a 4th place finish in the points race. Next up for me is a block of UCI racing at the velodrome while I pursue the Rider of the Year competition.