The Pennsylvania Lightning out-dueled the Mexico heat over the weekend to take the inaugural race of the fledgling World Cycling League, a new track racing venture founded by former Philadelphia International Cycling Classic organiser Dave Chauner.
42 elite track cyclists from 12 countries competed in a six-team, three-session format that started Friday evening, continued Saturday afternoon and concluded with a final session Saturday evening.
In each session, the teams of four men and three women earned points in a 12-race format, which included no time trials or match sprints.
Olympic medalists from the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Nelson Vails and Steve Hegg, along with Connie Paraskevin, the four-time world sprint champion, four-time US road race national champion Fred Rodriguez, 2000 Olympian Tony Cruz from nearby Long Beach and bike speed record holder John Howard all attended as celebrity representatives for each team.
“This really is the future of cycling,” said Rodriguez, ambassador for the Pennsylvania Lightning. “It’s entertainment for a new generation with a shorter attention span. Nothing like this has been presented in the US before. And, the racing was real hard and aggressive. It was a very cool event. Plus, my team won.”
Shimano executive Wayne Stetina, came up from Orange County added, said he really didn't know what to expect.
“I was invited by Steve Hegg and I’m really glad I came up,” he said. “It was a great and entertaining format. No real down time. The spectators really seemed to respond to it. It was an electric atmosphere. This was a fun night of real good racing.”
On the track, the Lightning’s Kwesi Browne of Trinidad and Matthew Rotherham of Great Britain battled it out in the 500 and 1,000 meter races, both winning matches on the final night.
The endurance races featured Andreas Muller of Austria, the winningest racer in European six-day history, American Zak Kovalcik and Ignacio Prado of Mexico, who was named the men’s MVP.
On the women’s side, six-time Irish champion Eimear Moran, 10-time US Champion Tela Crane, event MVP Anita Stenberg of Norway and American sprinter Missy Erickson, who was coming back from a major injury, were featured. Stenbergy won multiple races while Erickson won two sprint races the final night.
“This event was fantastic,” Erickson said. “For me, to get back on the track was one thing. To compete in a ground-breaking event with so much charisma made it special. I think the format and the way they presented it, from the kits on up, shows great potential. I look forward to it continuing."
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