The first National Bicycle Championships ever held at Dairyland were a grade-A success. Dairyland is a 50-acre park just southwest of Portland, Ore.; the annual championship is a four-day event that usually comes down to some violent sprints between such long-standing contenders and former champions as Jackie Simes and Dave Brink. The event probably would have been a success even if Simes had not put up a spectacular battle for the championship. The scene was the thing. What with the shiny new red-green-and-blue concrete velodrome—completed one day before the meet, and the largest and steepest in the country—and the cartons and cases of refreshments dispensed on the infield in the shade of two striped tents, the competitors enjoyed the pleasantest Amateur Bicycle League finals on record.
The track was built, the refreshments were provided and the event was sponsored by the Alpenrose Dairy. "We really don't have any idea how much the track cost us," said Carl Cadonau, whose father owns Alpenrose. "Most of the work was done by dairy personnel." Cycling experts guessed $35,000 for the track. Nobody, not even Cadonau, could bring himself to estimate the cost of staging the meet, plus the expense of the quantities of orange juice, chocolate milk, buttermilk, prune juice, banana split ice cream, plums, grapes, bananas, oranges and low-fat yogurt consumed at a frightening rate by the racers.
Frans Pauwels, the Portland organizer of the championships, and a big wheel in Oregon cycling, is still somewhat stunned by Alpenrose Dairy's outpouring of largesse. "I just came to Carl to ask for some trophies, and so...," he says, waving sort of helplessly at the track, stands and tents.
In addition to the new velodrome, there repose in Dairyland a small rodeo arena, a Little League stadium, two other baseball diamonds, a pond with a fountain, a theater, a midget-racing-car arena, pony rides, a baby animal barn, a Storybook Lane, a collection of antique circus vehicles, one entire western Dairyville, "complete with a gimlet-eyed marshal," says the guidebook, and also complete, one might add, with a blacksmith shop, operating newspaper office, general store, bandstand, arcade, cobbler shop, saddle shop, stagecoach, nickelodeon, schoolhouse, post office, livery stable, hotel, opera house and assay office issuing wooden nickels exchangeable for pony rides. The wooden nickels are free, but then so is absolutely everything else.
"Dad had a few ponies," said Carl Cadonau, explaining how Dairyland happened to come about. "Then we went into Little League baseball, and somehow it all just happened. You don't count cost in something like this."
Frans Pauwels, who calls himself an old broken-down bike rider, happened to come along when there was still some space left in Alpenrose Park. Once a well-known professional rider in Europe, he now owns a bicycle shop in Portland and promotes cycling in Oregon. Landing the nationals in Portland was his greatest promotional success, of course, but there was one small flaw; he had somehow not stressed that the splendid new velodrome the city was offering had not yet been built.
"Our fellows finished laying cement one week before the race," Carl Cadonau said. "The painting was done this week, and the striping was done today. That 41° bank looks severe, but it helps the riders. You go into it at a speed of 26.7 miles per hour to be perpendicular to the surface."
Everybody, in fact, was happy about the new track—which may account for the fact that the road men got even less attention than usual. The underappreciated road races were held on a hilly 1.7-mile course in startlingly beautiful Mt. Tabor Park, which is covered with immensely tall, arrow-straight Douglas firs, which filter the sun and hot smaze into a cathedral cool. The 102-mile, 60-lap senior race was enlivened by a three-man breakaway in the first lap. With four members of the U.S.'s most successful cycling team at the Pan-American Games—Bob Parsons, Mike Pickens, Dan Butler and Nick Zeller—included in the field, the jumpers clearly felt the need for inventive tactics. "It takes a lot of guts to sprint with 102 miles to go," said Jim Van Boven, who won the junior road championship.
With 23 laps and 39 miles left, an unknown Puerto Rican, Edwin Torres, made an unorthodox move, gaining 20 seconds on the field. He settled down to pick up a steady 10 seconds each circuit, building to a lead of one minute 45 seconds. With 10 laps to go, Torres was caught in one lap, his whole painfully won lead wiped out in a single burst by Butler, Parsons and John Aschen. Parsons won in five hours, one minute and 38 seconds, still looking fresh. Torres finished fourth.
Then the bicycle track men got their first chance to try out Alpenrose's high banks and steep transitions in competition. Results in the 4,000-meter qualification were what they would have been at any angle. Dave Brink of Berkeley, Calif., who had set three consecutive records in the Pan-American Games trials, scored the best time, 5:14.8. Skip Cutting of Riverside, Calif.—who had held the records that Brink fractured—was second at 5:15.4.
In the final Brink whipped Cutting with a minimum of delirious dramatics, despite the fact that his adjustable seat loosened and dropped, which necessitated his churning along with his knees up somewhere near his chin.
Although just as true to form, the outcome of the distance event was more exciting. Jackie Simes of Closter, N.J. (SI, Sept. 14, 1964), who set a sprint record at the Pan-American trials, was sandwiched in a tight pack virtually all the length of the first five-mile heat for the 10-mile final. At the bell signaling the last sixth-of-a-mile lap, two upstarts, Oliver Martin and Bill Best, tore away from Jim Rossi, a consistent leader. They had scarcely entered the turn, however, when they were passed high above by Simes. His gears whining up to a scream, Simes shot out of that one turn a clear leader and winner.
Afterward Simes previewed the sprints the next day. He said the dense pack had not worried him. "I'm a sprinter basically," he said, "and that way I get the advantage of the slipstream until the very end." His remarks were interrupted by the end of the second heat. Flying off the last turn in the midst of a howling pack, John Van De Velde blew a tire. The sound of cloth and skin ripping on concrete could be heard, but he got up and walked to a tent for treatment. Meanwhile Wayne Le Bombard of West Allis, Wis. had led Tim Mountford and Neil King across the finish line.
Simes resumed his preview of the coming sprints. "Jack Disney [the defending champion], Sam Zeitlin, Preston Handy, Tim Mountford—they're the ones I have to worry about most," he said. "I know Handy best. He has a good jump, and he's very quick on his bike. He can block your every move. I might try to lead him from the front and crank him up faster and faster. Or I might lag back 40 feet. That way he doesn't know where I am and has to keep looking back, while I get a jump on my sprint."
The New Jerseyite did not call it quite exactly. Carl Leusenkamp was his competition in the sprint final. Simes ate Leusenkamp up in two straight (out of three), but the 10-mile race was a bicycle of another hue. A five-man breakaway first smashed the rest of the field. Then, doing it the hardest way possible, Portland's home-town hope, Steve Maaranen, barely caught the train. He horrified the great sprinter Simes and the long man Brink by timing his jump exactly right to score an amazing victory.
Simes came out of shock by trophy-presentation time. "What you did for Oregon cycling," he told Maaranen, "can never be repaid."
Gears whined as riders rounded the turns of the newest and steepest velodrome in the U.S.