Besides speed, the confrontation evoked images of danger. The previous weekend in the national road-race championships, 20 riders were involved in a grotesque chain-reaction crash, and eight were carted off to the hospital. At North-brook frequent spills during the track races kept the medics alert, although there were no injuries more serious than one broken nose and one broken collarbone. "You're coming through the corners, side by side, both going all out and it's easy to wipe out," said Novara. She came to Northbrook with a match-race record unsullied by a 1973 defeat. "Some girls you can intimidate. You can play with them, especially if they're afraid."
There was little chance of intimidating Sheila Young, according to Peter Schotting, her speed skating coach and boyfriend from Holland. In fact, overaggressiveness almost cost her the title. In the first ride of the best-of-three finals Saturday night Sheila was in control coming out of the final turn when she forced Novara up on the banking, illegal on the last stretch, and was disqualified. Sue tried to put the pressure on in the second ride, taking the lead and forcing the race, but Sheila's powerful drive caught Novara in the final turn, and she passed on the outside for victory. The seeds of doubt had been sown. In the final race, Sheila hung back for most of the first lap, then saw an opening and cornered Novara, forcing her opponent up high on the bank and thus blunting her attack. Sheila controlled the last 200 yards.
"She's really fast, but she's inexperienced," her father said after the decisive final ride. "She gets shook up, I think. Before the last ride I could tell she was really nervous just by looking at her. So I tried to act real calm...even though I was as nervous as she was."
Later, while Sheila and Roger held their rose bouquets and slipped into the National Champion jerseys symbolic of their triumphs, the crowd called for Clair Young to come out onto the track. He did, suffused with pride, and they put him up on a bicycle and he took a victory lap with his children, side by side, the old man doffing his cap in gratitude to the applauding stands. It was a simple moment all too rare.