Racers battle speed and smoke

June 24, 2012

With smoke wafting over the 7-Eleven Velodrome in Memorial Park as racers prepared for the Pro Cycling U.S. Grand Prix of Sprinting Sunday night, a track record seemed unlikely.

But Canada’s Monique Sullivan changed that in a flash. After most of the smoke from the Waldo Canyon fire had left the track, Sullivan crushed the women’s flying lap track record with a time of 18.34 seconds.

Sullivan’s mark bested the previous record of 19.20 set by The Netherlands’ Willy Kanis and came less than an hour after she won the women’s keiren 2,000-meter race.

“It’s always nice to get a win under your belt for confidence,” said Sullivan, who lives and trains in Los Angeles and rides for Team PCL. “I made the best of it, and I think I made a good move in the keiren, so I’m happy with that.”

Some racers wore masks over their noses and mouths while warming up, with a few teams – including the world powerhouse German squad and the Dutch team – withdrawing from the competition. The three-day event, which featured more than 50 riders from nine countries, served as the final tune-up for next month’s Olympic Games.

Sullivan, for one, is ready for her first Olympic experience.

“I’m really excited, and if I think about it too much, it’s too exciting, so I just try to stay focused on the day-to-day things,” Sullivan said. “My form is coming along well, and I just hope that on the day (of competition), I’m able to execute good races. I just hope I’m able to put a good ride together when it counts.”

A pair of racers with ties to Colorado Springs competed Sunday, with Madalyn Godby finishing third in the women’s keiren. Godby, who is from Louisville, will be a freshman at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs this fall and established a pair of personal records at the Grand Prix.

“I accomplished some p-r’s (personal records), so I’m happy,” said Godby, who plans to major in nutrition. “The fires caused a little trouble breathing, but you’ve just got to go out and race. We had an amazing field here, so learning from all of these women I look up to and getting to race with them was amazing.”

Springs resident Marty Houston was affected by the smoke.

“I have a lot of friends here who have had to evacuate or might have to evacuate,” Houston said. “(The smoke) has a huge effect on your breathing and your mental preparation. That’s why a lot of athletes smartly pulled out.”

Houston used the Grand Prix to gauge where he stands among the world’s best.

“This was my first test against international competition, and I’ve still got a long, long way to go, but it’s very motivating,” he said. “This is my third year in the sport, so I’m just training to better my times and trying to get to the top level. It was just amazing seeing the level of competitors here.”

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