USA Cycling held the 2011 Elite Track Nationals earlier this month in Southern California and Beth Newell (Bell Lap Racing) reigned supreme. She not only won the grueling International Omnium title but the Points title as well.
“Nationals was definitely a goal for me this year,” stated Newell. “My big goal for the season was track nationals in omnium, individual pursuit, and point race. I had some time goals I wanted to achieve this year. Anything can happen in a mass start race. I knew I had a shot going into the points race, that I could win it, but you never really know how the bike race is going to play out.”
“I couldn’t have hoped for more than how my Nationals weekend went with two wins and two silver medals behind Sarah Hammer,” continued Newell. “I was pretty satisfied with myself. A few months before Track Nationals I was a really aiming to do a good individual pursuit. I was a little bummed about the schedule put out by USA Cycling. They combined the omnium pursuit with the individual pursuit. The seeding was also a bit different. After the schedule came out I went back and reevaluated my goals for the race. I wanted to put in a solid time but it was going to be a little different. I then targeted the points race and omnium.”
The omnium is a brutal multiple race event in track cycling. Currently, and for the 2012 Olympics, the omnium as defined by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) consists of six events; flying lap, 20km points race, elimination, 3000m individual pursuit, scratch race, and 500m time trial. Points are awarded in reverse order. The rider who finishes first in an event receives one point, the second rider will get two points and so on. The rider with the fewest points after all events is the winner. A rider must have completed every event in the omnium. Newell entered the last race with a nice lead.
Newell best describes the event, from her blog Beth Bikes!, she states, “I came into the final race with a 3 point lead, so I had a bit of a buffer. The final race is a 500m time trial…if I could describe my start visually, it would be like this: you know when a beginner comes to the track on a rental bike and you see them do their first start ever, weaving down track, then taking several seconds to move 5 meters forward? Well, that is pretty much what it looked like. I was pretty much scared at this point, seeing the whole race shatter before my eyes. I heard Kevin Masker screaming his balls out at me in turn one, and I tried to sprint as fast as I could for the next two laps, all but knowing in the back of my head that there is really no making up for that, and I lost it. I crossed the finish line and the only emotion I felt was pure despair. I had blown it so incredibly bad. I rolled around for a lap completely devastated. I came off the track, very sad, and then someone said I won, as Lauren Hall who was in 2nd place to me going into the event, was only one place ahead of me. I really couldn’t believe it.”
Newell won the omnium by two points.
Though keeping one foot in track racing, Newell is looking forward to the challenges of road racing in 2012.
“When we looked at the 2011 calendar, I wanted to get some more experience in road racing. I had been pretty track focused,” stated Newell. “This was my first season racing Cat 1/2 . I wanted to get to one or two NRC races. I didn’t have any set goals beyond trying to get a feel what racing road is like.”
“The reason why I considered road is I simply love to race and there is just not a lot of track races. Every year there are three big track races that bring in international talent and are fun. It’s a bit of a let down though that there is only these three races. I wanted to race road because there is just a lot more opportunity. I also wanted to see what team racing was about. I have been pretty much riding solo on the track. It was fun to ride with Fremont Bank Cycling Team this year. Racing the local races was the most fun I have had. My big motivation is to make the next step on the road in the hopes to get on a NRC team for the next season.”
“I did guest ride with Vanderkitten-Focus at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Jono was great with the team. He kept a real positive vibe with all the women. Overall it was really good. It was a lot to take in because you are in the pack and you turn to see the World Champion right next to you. I almost wanted to run and get a camera. I definitely want to do more road racing in 2012.”
Newell credits two things for her incredible 2011 season, more training time and having Michael Hernandez as her coach.
“I went to part-time working in June to focus more on my training,” continued Newell. “I think that is a big reason why my track results were so good this year. I had more time to train. I used to have to squeeze in training time before and after work. I know that the extra training time and having Michael Hernandez as my coach was the difference. I give Michael all the credit. There was no way that I would have won without him. Michael just has a positive attitude and confidence in my ability, which allowed me to have confidence in myself. He helped me to not be afraid and to go out there and risk it. In the points race this year his influence was evident. In previous years I thought, ‘Oh I hope I can be in the final sprint and be on the podium.’ Now with Michael and my training I feel that I am going to win the race. It’s a real liberating feeling to have.”
With two national titles, Newell was asked the obligatory Olympics question. Was she interested in London 2012?
“I am not really gunning for the 2012 Olympics. The selection procedures really started two years ago. You had to get UCI points and that is not really where I am. This year was a huge eye opener for me. I was pleased about my progress physically. I felt I really improved. Maybe it’s in the cards for 2016 in the team pursuit. I would love the opportunity to race in Europe though. Once the Olympics are over I would love to race in a Track World Cup race and see what that is like. I have not considered road racing in Europe.”
Always gracious, Newell finished the interview with heartfelt thanks to the cycling community who supported her from the beginning.
“I wanted to thank everyone at Hellyer Velodrome, which is my local track. The community there has been extremely supportive. I wouldn’t be here today with that community. I entered the track 5 years ago, not knowing how to race and the people there have helped me from the beginning.”
With more time to train, a dedicated coach and mentor, and a new road team, Newell has an extremely bright future.