And so it began under the Friday Night Lights in Trexlertown.
The 40th season of racing at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center kicked off with some of the best sprint racing the track has seen in quite some time with riders from 11 nationals competing for UCI points to qualify for World Cups.
New Zealand's Matt Archibald claimed the men's sprint title at the U.S. Sprint Grand Prix while Elise Ligtlee of the Netherlands earned the women's sprint crown, beating out the woman who broke the oldest standing record at the track in morning qualifying.
The evening, with almost 2,000 spectators on hand, also featured UCI enduro points for the men and women with New Zealand's Patrick Jones winning the men's 15-kilometer scratch race, and Kim Geist of Emmaus, coming off a bronze medal performance in the scratch race at the UCI World Championships, claiming the women's 10-kilometer scratch race.
"I'm very tired now," a visibly huffing Archibald said after winning the men's sprint. "Believe it. This tournament was super tough. Jeffrey Hoogland [of Netherlands] was fourth in the world this year, and he didn't even win. It shows how tough this field is. I'm bloody tired. I'm going to rest well tonight."
Hoogland was beaten in straight rides of the semifinals by No. 2 qualifier Tjon En Fa of Suriname. Hoogland then lost in the third-fourth place finals to Perkasie's Matt Baranoski in three rides.
Archibald beat En Fa in straight rides.
In the women's tournament, Ligtlee, the No. 2 qualifier, showcased the form that earned her a silver medal in the sprint at the last world championships .
"It was really cool," the Dutch rider said. "We were here last year and really liked it and it was really cool to win the first one here.
Ligtlee, just 20, used superior tactics to beat Kate O'Brien, who shattered the oldest record at the track in morning qualifying.
O'Brien, a 26-year-old from Calgary, shattered the oldest track record at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in morning qualifying. She rode a blazing 11.487 to crush the old mark of 11.569 set by Connie Paraskevin Young at the 1996 Olympic Trials.
"That was really unexpected," O'Brien said. "I did a 13.9 here last year."
O'Brien attributed her time to spending the last month training at a Canadian velodrome. Last year, she split her time between bobsled and cycling after a torn hamstring kept her out of the Winter Olympics. She's still dedicated to both sports, but is concentrating on cycling right now.
"The tactics are unbelievable hard for me," she said in assessing her finals loss to Litglee. "Our coach [Erin Hartwell] is trying to help me with those. He says unfortunately it's not a time trial."
In other UCI points action, New Zealand's Patrick Jones, a 22-year-old here on his own without the national team, won the sprint to the finish of a spirited 15-kilometer scratch race. He joined a chase train with Bobby Lea, the reigning world bronze medalist in the event, and fellow kiwi Jeremy Presbury, with three laps (one kilo) left in the race.
"When Bobby went, that was the move and I got into his wind and took it all the way to the end," Jones said.
Kim Geist of Emmaus, fresh off winning a bronze medal in the scratch race at the world championships this past February in France, proved triumphant in her first race back in the World Series of Bicycling, capturing the win in a crowded field of the 12-lap preme race.
"It was good," she said of the opening women's endurance race of the night. "It was actually kind of fast, a big field, really animated."
Geist came back to capture the only UCI women's enduro event, winning the 10-kilometer scratch by working with a chase group to grab a lead group of 11 riders, and then overcame them all with a two-lap sprint to claim the top points.
"Points are important to make the World Cups and the deadline for them is pretty early this year, so we need these points in the summertime," Geist said. "I really didn't know how this race was going to play out … I knew we had some pretty good sprinters left in the group, so I didn't want to make it a short sprint. For me, longer sprints work out better. Two to go was good for me because I knew it would be completely on the gas from there."
Bobby Lea of Topton, who won a bronze medal in the men's scratch race at the World Championships, won the Super Sprint elimination.
Zac Williams of New Zealand won the men's 3-kilometer final.
Action in the UCI points chase continues next Friday night with the Fastest Man on Wheels competition, featuring sprints and Keirins.
Men's UCI 200-meter qualifying: 1. Matthew Archibald (New Zealand) 10.319; 2. Tjon En Fa (Suriname) 10.407; 3. Jeffrey Hoogland (Netherlands) 10.451; 4. Eddie Dawkins (NZ) 10.482; 5. Njisane Phillip (Trinidad) 10.502; 6. Hugo Barrette (Canada) 10.520; 7. Matt Baranoski (Perkasie) 10.544; 9. Ethan Mitchell (NZ) 10.54; 10. Joseph Veloce (Can) 10.52.
Men's sprint 1/16 round: Archibald def. James Mellen (USA); En Fa def. David Espinosa (USA); Hoogland def. Lenardo Bottasso (Argentina); Dawkins def. Francisco Ceci (Italy); Phillip def. Evan Carey (Can); Barrette def. Jeremy Presbury (NZ); Haak def. Nils Van't Hoenderdaal (Netherlands); Baranoski def. Joel Archambault (Can); Mitchell def. Ben Stewart (NZ); Veloce def. Zac Williams (NZ); Simon van Velthooven (NZ) def. Danny Robertson (USA); Sam Webster (NZ) def. Kwesi Browne.
Men's 1/8 round: Archibald def. Webster; En Fa def. van Velthooven; Hoogland def. Veloce; Dawkins def. Mitchell; Baranoski def. Philliup; Barrette def. Haak.
Men's 1/4 round: Archibald def. van Velthooven; En Fa def. Mitchell; Hoogland def. Barrette; Baranoski def. Dawkins.
Men's semifinals: Archibald def. Baranoski; En Fa def. Hoogland.
Men's finals" Archibald def. En Fa 2-0; Baranoski def. Hoogland 2-1; 5. Dawkins; 6. Barrette;7, Mitchell; 8. Van Velthooven.
Women's 200-meter qualifying: 1. Kate O'Brien (Can) 11.487 (breaks track record of 11.569 set by Connie Paraskevin Young in 1996); 2. Elise Ligtlee (Netherlands) 11.608; 3. Monique Sullivan (Can) 11.682; 4. Shanne Braspennencx (Netherlands) 11.722; 5. Natasha Hansen (NZ) 11.759; 6. Yesna Rijkhoff (Netherlands) 11.840; 7. Mandy Marquardt (USA) 11.869; 8. Danielle Kahn (Great Britain) 11.915; 9. Katie Schofield (NZ) 12.005; 10. Anissa Cobb (USA) 12.021.
Women's 1/8 round: O'Brien def. McKenzie; Ligtlee def. Lamberink; Sullivan def. Cobb; Braspennencx def. Schofield; Hansen def. Kahn; Rijkhoff def. Marquardt
Women's 1/4 round: O'Brien def. Kahn; Ligtlee def. Schofield; Sullivan def. Rijkhoff; Braspennencx def. Hansen.
Women's semifinals: O'Brien def. Braspennencx; Litglee def. Sullivan.
Women's finals: 1. Litglee def. O'Brien 2-0; Sullivan def. Braspennencx 2-0; 5. Rijkhoff; 6. Kahn; 7. Schofield; 8. Hansen.
UCI men's 15-kilometer scratch race: 1. Patrick Jones (New Zealand); 2. Jeremy Presbury (NZ); 3. Stephen Hall (Australia); 4. Jake Duehring (USA); 5. Bobby Lea (Topton); 6. Jeremy Shirock (Emmaus).
Women's 12-lap preme race: 1. Kim Geist (Emmaus).
Men's super sprint elimination: 1. Lea (Topton).