Brian Donaghy has always enjoyed his visits to Washington, but he wouldn't mind seeing a few improvements made.

The bumpy road/track around the Ellipse, however, did not prevent the Wescosville, Pa., resident from pedaling to victory in the 12th annual National Capital Open Criterium bicycle race in American-record fashion yesterday.

Donaghy, the national track racing champion, did not lead until the final stretch, but beat a pack over the line at the finish in 1:06.54, two minutes better than the existing 50-kilometer, (31.07-mile) mark by Canadian Jocelyn Lovell in this race three years ago. Donaghy averaged 27.864 miles per hour. l

"It's a little bumpy," said Donaghy, in his seventh or eighth appearance here. "I hope they repave it soon, with all that money in Washington and it being in front of the White House and all."

Donaghy, who won an intermediate (below 16-year-old) race and placed second in junior competition in past Washington visits, let others do the work for most of the race.He was content to sit back and take the draft amidst the pack, keeping an eye on the top racers in case one of them should move.

With 500 meters left, he decided his time had come. He overtook Patrick Gellineau of New York and held off runner-up Barry Baxter of Whitakers, N.C., Bethesda's Paul Pearson and a bunch of others to take home the President's Trophy.

"This race is so fast, it's hard for one person to get away. I just planned to ride a track race and wait to make my sprint," said Donaghy, called the Torch because of his flaming red hair. "In a race like this, you have to stay alert. You see one of the top riders make a move, you react. The last couple of laps, a lot of top riders were up front."

Just about all the 121 entrants were in contention throughout the entire 51 laps. There was mild breakaway by four riders -- Ian Jones, Pearson, Steve Pyle and Jeff Pierce -- with 30 laps left. The quartet held a decent margin for about five laps. Canadian Hugh Walton joined the front-runners with 25 laps left. David Ware followed suit five laps later before the pack caught up with 19 laps remaining.

"I was a little concerned (about the breakaway)," Donaghy said. "I got up in front of the pack to take a look. But the quality of them (the leaders) wasn't the greatest."

In a sport where top Europeans earn six-figure yearly incomes and are national heroes, Donaghy won $200 of the $1,000 prize money, two racing tires, a dozen roses, $20 (donated by spectators) for setting the American record, and paid expenses to next week's stop on this 21-event Campagnolo Prestige Series. Today's race was the series inaugural event.

Teamwork was the key to the women's 25-kilometer, won by Betsy Davis of Nutley, N.J., with 32 points in the race's novel point-accumulation system. The top two racers across the line in each lap got two points and one point, respectively. Every fifth lap the points awarded to the top four were five, three, two and one, in that order. At race's end, the top four finishers were awarded six, four and two points.

With one lap left, Davis and Fluid Motion 6 teammates Brenda Atkinson, a Briton living in Nutley, and Betsy King of Farmington, Conn., were the top point-getters with 22, 22 and 20, respectively. Only Philadelphia's Mary Jane Reoch, who set eight standing American records here in 1977, with 15 points and Barbara Hintzen of Grosse Point, Mich., had any chance of winning.

Davis, averaging 27.37 miles per hour, sprinted home ahead of Hintzen in 39.52.49. Atkinston totalled 22 points, and Hintzen and King 20 apiece. Hintzen earned third place because she finished before King. Reoch was fifth.

"I couldn't have done it without my teammates," Davis said. "I'm very thankful. With about eight or 10 laps to go, I received a side cramp, which is not unusual. If I want to recuperate for a lap or two, I have my teammates to help me through. Only Brenda and Betsy (King) really had a chance to win, so the others just helped me out."

Davis, in winning the Virginia Trophy, took home a pair of training wheels, a sweater and roses which she gave to her mother.

In the junior division, which is basically for 16-17-year-olds, Bobby Livingston, 14, of Riverdale, Ga., triumphed in his first competitive race, beating Andres Villadd and George Sheffield, both of Potomac, over the line.