With the White House as a backdrop. Californian Leonard Nitz pushed the great American sports dream machine through a penetrating wind and into a first-place finish in yesterday's National Capital Open Bicycle Race.

Nitz, a 1976 Olympian from Sacramento, pedaled 50 kilometers around the Elipse in a time of 1:11.22. He narrowly edged his bike past second place finisher Paul Pearson of Orlando, Fla., and Tom Schuler of Detroit, Mich., who was third.

"The wind was rough and the course was kind of bumpy, making the race that much tougher," Nitz said, after taking a victory lap in the rear of a pickup truck.

With 15 laps remaining Nitz said he "felt really bad out there. My legs were a little tight in the cold. I couldn't pull any more." However, in the tradition of Olympic hopefuls, Nitz cited sheer "determination" for his winning despite of the elements.

Nitz placed 10th in the Montreal Olympics and is headed toward qualification for the Moscow Games. "The time I'm just looking forward to coming away with a medal."

The winning time, three minutes off the course record, was slowed considerably by the conditions. Chief Judge Peter Stevens explained that while the riders were hitting speeds of close to 40 miles per hour with the wind at their backs, overall "they lost time because as they were going into the wind they were also on the side of the course that is on a slight uphill incline."

Betsy Davis of the New Jersey Bicycle Club captured the women's 25 kilometer race in 41:32.28. Davis nosed out heavily favored Mary Jane Reoch of Philadelphia, a past national champion and medalist in world championship competition.

"It was especially tough for me riding in this weahther because I just came up from the south," said Davis.

In the men's junior competition, Jeff Eaton of Somerset, N.J., in 45:10.89 for 30 kilometers.With six laps remaining in the race, a driving rain with suddnen gusts of wind had cyclists skidding and swaying.

"People were hitting their brakes and sliding," said Rutter. "I was pretty scared becaused I got boxed in , but everything opened up and I was able to be ahead at the finish." CAPTION: Picture 1, Betsy Davis, winner in 25-kilometer event, earned bouquet; Picture 2, Leonard Nitz, 1976 Olympian from Sacramento, Calif., raises arm in victory as he finishes featured race in National Capital Open. Photos by Linda Wheeler-The Washington Post