The course was a six corner, half miler, tight, and well protected from the wind. It being in the heart of downtown a large crowd was on hand. The prize list was $10,000, with $1,500 for ten places in the master’s race, $500 bounty for the win. The purse is sure to draw top riders it’s the biggest and last race of the year on the Portland calendar. The day was beautiful and sunny which also brings out the people like a 50-degree day in a Wisconsin winter.
On the line for the masters race, I noticed a few riders I knew who would be going well. Emile Abraham from Atlanta is as fast and as smart as they come. He was also racing down with the masters so he was the odd on favorite for the win. Former world champion on the track, David Klipper was there as well with a bunch of guys. I had no idea as to who or how good they were.
The race started and immediately became single file. The announcer told the field prior to the start there would be $250 in primes during the race. As luck would have it the first time I get to the front is on the home straight and they ring the bell for a $20.00 prime. I continue to lead going through the first four corners and begin to think maybe I can win this. I slowly accelerate into corner 5 and come out of six full gas only to have Klipper beat me at the line by a half of a wheel.
Back in the field after the sprint a counter attack goes, one rider emerges with more than half the race to go. He gets about 10-12 seconds but never out of sight. He gets caught within five laps and another rider tries his fitness. At this point the guys off the front are collecting all the primes. The final solo rider is caught at 13 laps to go and it appears we are going to be setting up for a field sprint.
Eleven to go I’m at the front again and again the bell rings for a $20.00 prime. I lead through corner three, but this time one guy jumps around me into four. He’s not full throttle and I am easily able to roll back onto his wheel. As we head into corner five I let a small gap open between us. The guy in front of me hits a dip on the road and looses it. He goes down right in front of me, I’m able to slip by on the outside of him without loosing any momentum. I hear bikes on the asphalt and give a quick glance as I head into corner six. I make an effort to the line and win the prime. Taking the next few corners relatively easy thinking the field will be on me real fast. Rolling past the spot of the crash I see the guy who fell, he’s out. Coming through the last corner toward pit alley, I see Klipper and a couple others just arriving. Surprised, I realize I am still off the front with no idea how far. I start rolling a little faster. Next lap through I shake my head, getting my mind right, see nine to go, and say oh shit, THIS IS IT! Going for it now I could win or get caught and get nothing. As I cross the start/finish I begin my best impression of a time trialist and GO.
The crowds of people were cheering like crazy, encouraging me to stay off. This helped me keep focused, but no time splits. Then two to go, I begin to think… I can do this. The field is still not in sight. Maybe they’re setting up for the field sprint?
Oh Jesus, one to go. With just six corners left a guy I know tells me the gap is 12 seconds. In my mind I am thinking, oh shit this is going to be close. Between corners two and three I can get a glimpse of the start/finish. You never look back when you’re off the front but I took my first look back, I didn’t see anything. Out of five I take another look back. Now hammering out of the last corner on to the finishing stretch, maybe 250m to the line, I pinch myself and take one last look back. No one is there! I straighten myself up, sit up, hands off the bars, zip up, and the hands go up!
Solo win for Hollander!
The winning margin, 20 seconds at the finish.
Next up and the last for my season is the Masters Nationals Race.
Words by Mike Buechel
Photo credit Lisa Harvey and Emile Abraham