American Cyclists vs. Soviets : Head-to-Head Velodrome Challenge Will Be a First for Two Countries

Times Staff Writer

The Olympic Velodrome at Cal State Dominguez Hills will be the scene for its biggest cycling event since the 1984 Olympics this weekend when a Soviet team goes head-to-head against most of the top American riders.

It not only marks the first one-on-one meeting for U. S. and Soviet cyclists--and the Soviets’ first appearance at the Olympic Velodrome because they snubbed the ’84 Olympics--but a return to big-time competition for the Velodrome, whose promoters hope to schedule more national and international competition.

The field will not include world champion Viatcheslav Ekimov, who was scheduled to compete, but the revamped rosters include 1984 Olympic medalists Mark Gorski, Nelson Vails and Rebecca Twigg-Whitehead, three-time world champion Connie Paraskevin-Young and current national sprint champion Scott Berryman for the U. S.


The Soviet team will have four world champions--Guintatas Umaras (individual pursuit), Aleksandr Krasnov (team pursuit), Marat Ganeev (points race) and Erika Salumyae (women’s match sprints) as well as Nikolai Kovsh, the world record holder in men’s match sprints. Krasnov and Salumyae also hold world records in championship categories.

The two-day competition, with programs starting at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, is not only a gauge of the Americans’ standing against top opponents they didn’t get to face here in 1984--gold medalist Gorski or the rising young Berryman matched against Kovsh and Paraskevin-Young facing Salumyae are particularly exciting prospects--but may be a boost for the velodrome as well.

A large spectator turnout may indicate growing interest in velodrome racing, which promoters at the Dominguez Hills facility have been trying to build since the Olympics.

The track, which opened in 1983, was criticized by competitors even before the Olympics when cracks appeared throughout the banked concrete oval. The velodrome was given a complete face lift this year, and as the only world-class outdoor track west of the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, promoters are aiming for increased competitive usage.

Since the Olympics, administrators of the velodrome--which works with Dominguez Hills but is run independently--have had varying success in attracting events.

The latest to undertake the challenge, Tim Roach and Carmen Rivera, seem more determined to build on the velodrome’s potential for spectator competition as well as community participation.


Roach, who handles promotion of cycling events, said the track is used almost daily by classes and riders but that national and international meets are hard to organize without help. The Soviet-U. S. meeting is being promoted by a public relations firm and sponsored by Michelob beer.

“International events are expensive to promote,” Roach said. “It’s been a goal of mine to get major outside marketing and promotion. I think it will be done more in the future.”

The track is used for Dominguez Hills classes every weekday and is available for open training on Saturdays. Races are generally held about once a month, and the facility has been used recently for concerts and other non-sports events.

It’s also used afternoons for a youth training program funded by the Amateur Athletic Foundation. Roach said the next Gorskis and Berrymans could well come out of the program.

“A couple of kids came out of the district championships (won titles) in June,” Roach said. “They’re some of the few kids getting any kind of coaching. Very few of the guys racing now (at the national level) had any kind of coaching (at the youth level), let alone free coaching. I think you’ll see some Olympians coming out of this program. They’re getting coaching from the start.”

The U. S.-Soviet program will include the Olympic events--match sprints, individual and team pursuit and time trial--plus tandem races, points races and a keirin (motorcycle-paced) race. Along with such stars as Gorski, Berryman, Vails, Twigg and Paraskevin, the U. S. team will include Olympian Leonard Nitz and former Loyola Marymount University student Dave Lettieri. Most of the cyclists are their nations’ top candidates for the 1988 Olympics.


The team with the most total points will be considered the winner.

The real winner could be the velodrome.