Imagine beginning a race with no idea how long it's going to last.
That was what riders in the Hubert Schleh unknown distance race faced Friday night at Valley Preferred Cycling Center. No one, not even the lap and bell judge, knew how many laps the race would last; the judge, keeping an eye on the race, would arbitrarily ring the bell as the riders approached turn four to signal the final lap of the race and an all-out sprint to the finish line.
Whether one lap or 50 laps, however, it seemed nothing fazed Colleen Hayduk.
The Kutztown native enjoyed a perfect night, sweeping all five women's races, including the rain-delayed Golden Wheel handicap from last week, and walked away with the International Omnium title to pad her already sizable advantage in the women's rider of the year standings.
It was also a perfect send-off for the 23-year-old, who leaves Tuesday for USA Cycling Elite National Championships in Rock Hill, S.C.
"Coming out and winning five of five races is a really big confidence booster, and I'm going in with a really good head of steam and a really good streak that I'm hoping to keep alive," said Hayduk, who owns 23 national championships and once held three national records [two have since been broken].
Hayduk captured the Omnium with 40 points (wins in the first four races were worth seven points, in the Golden Wheel, 12) to finish 14 points ahead of Colleen Gulick, who was second in each of the first four races — the miss-and-out elimination, a 2-kilometer scratch, the Schleh and a 3K-motor pace — and came into the finale trailing by eight points. Gulick briefly held the lead on the final lap of the Golden Wheel but finished third behind Hayduk and Elspeth Huyett.
"It was a little bit of a different night tonight, but I really like scratch races and they're just three variations of scratch races, so it was right up my alley," said Hayduk, who will compete in scratch, points, Madison and miss-and-out at nationals.
Hayduk, who has finished second and third in the rider of the year standings in the past, came into the night with a whopping 28-point lead in this year's standings.
"I actually wasn't thinking about it at the beginning of the year, but it just kind of opened up and I started thinking, 'Oh, I could actually win,' so it's become a goal," said Hayduk, competing in her first full season in Trexlertown in five years.
The Schleh unknown distance race, named for the longtime bell-and-lap official who worked the velodrome from its opening in 1975 until his death in 2009, featured cat-and-mouse strategy on some laps, with riders sprinting away from the pack on various laps and hoping the bell would ring.
"It's a complete gamble," Hayduk, an Olympic hopeful down the road, said. "It could be really short or really long. It's about not letting anyone get too far, that I wouldn't be able to close if the bell did ring, and there were a couple of girls that tried to get away. But they really didn't get too far away."
"You're pretty familiar with the riders and their strength, so if someone with endurance that can go and hold it, you go with them," said New Zealand's Jeremy Presbury, who won the men's unknown distance race. "If it's a sprinter, he might get a massive gap but you know he might not be able to hold it and you can catch him. There were a couple of guys that could've gone and stayed away but luckily they didn't, do we could keep it under control."
The women's race wound up to be seven laps. The men's race lasted 11 laps.
"With any race that's unpredictable and can be short, the easiest way to win is from the front," Presbury said. "Then you hear the bell go, you can give it everything you've got."
Hayduk repeated her handicap win of two weeks ago, her first handicap win ever. She had to race the full four laps while the rest of the field was staggered around the track through the back stretch.
Brad Evans, Presbury's Kiwi teammate and the men's rider of the year leader, held serve by winning two races, the 25-lap scratch race with 38 points and the Golden Wheel finale.
Evans edged Presbury by three points in the points scratch race, with American Zachary Carlson third with 25 points. No other rider had more than eight points in the race that awards points for a sprint lap every five trips around the track.
American Nick Rogers won the men's 5-mile.
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