One for the Ages
19th Apr 2011Posted in: Blog 1
One for the Ages

They say in cycling that you’re either the hammer or the nail.  We had hoped to be the hammer, keeping the pace hot and forcing our competition to work just as hard if not harder.  It was no secret that if the Cutters were there at lap 190 Eric Young was going to win, so we knew going in that we would have to be aggressive.  Unfortunately, after having everything go our way in the 2010 race, I don’t think there’s much more that could have gone wrong for us on Saturday.  We weren’t just the nail, we were one of those 6″ ones with a top easy enough for everyone with any coordination to hammer away at.

We woke up Saturday morning at our hotel feeling amazing.  A few of us had trouble sleeping because our legs were just itching to throw down some power.  Our breakfast was simple but nutritious, and we couldn’t wait to get to the starting line.  The weather looked ominous once again, but spirits were high on our easy road ride as we casually rode through campus spinning at a high cadence.   Rolling up to our live-out for the rider send-off was absolutely unbelievable, and seeing our hundreds of fans going crazy with chants of “PHI KAI PHI, PHI KAI PHI, WOOGLIN, WOOGLIN, BETA THETA PI” still gives me chills as I’m writing this.

By the time we got to the track and checked in, our pit was already completely set up, thanks to our unbelievable staff of alumni assistants.  All the trainers were ready to go, the water bottles and food were neatly organized, and Doug had the mechanic’s area in pristine condition.  All we had to do was set our bikes up, stretch, and mentally prepare ourselves for the war ahead of us.  Having the peace of mind that our only responsibility was preparing to ride our bikes was the most calming feeling I’ve ever experienced on a race day.  Warmups only confirmed that our legs were in great shape, and our clean exchanges were also reassuring.  Our bikes were absolutely flying around the track and sticking the corners perfectly (you can see them featured in this Velonews gallery).  We were more ready than a Beta team has been for years.

This preparation showed in the early goings of the race.  Matt Green rode the first 10 laps to perfection, maintaining excellent position and never letting his concentration slip.  He threw down a monster burn into the headwind on the backstretch and gave the bike to Tom Laser with a 50 meter lead on the pack.  Laser’s first ever set in the Little 500 was also a thing of beauty, starting off by quickly assuming his role on the front of the pack.  After a handful of laps trading pulls with the other leaders, one of our rivals went in for an exchange and Laser found himself alone in following their burn, giving us a straightaway gap on the rest of the pack.  We knew getting away from everyone that early would be an impossible task, so instead of pushing the gap we decided to just ride at a steady pace, forcing the pack to catch up.

Being off the front allowed us to avoid the day’s first wreck and yellow flag.  After a 3-lap rest under caution, Laser drilled one more lap and gave the bike to Andrew Ramos with a gift-wrapped 75 meter gap on the pack.  Just like Laser, Ramos was able to start his first ever Little 5 set off in perfect position.  The pace was hot, but he stayed at the front and looked like a seasoned veteran out there.  After 6 or 7 laps he was given the signal to go, but unfortunately had his burn chased by all the leaders, giving me the bike with some catching up to do.  The pack was pretty strung out, so I was able to get up to speed and work my way up through traffic pretty easily.

I got to the front and everyone was deciding whether or not to attack Sigma Chi, who were off the back as a result of an earlier crash.  The consensus seemed to be just to keep the pace high, so I just sat in and traded pulls for a few laps.  Eric Young finally went in for an exchange, forcing everyone to kick it into high gear.  After a couple hot laps, Zach Lusk of the Cutters was not only able to catch up, but also to put in a nice dig that got some separation from the field, and I knew I had to go with him.  We had a decent gap, but my body was not happy with me and all I could do was sit on his wheel.  Knowing that I wasn’t feeling too hot, I quickly did a burn, got some separation, and let Green take over.

Green had another awesome set, working with the contenders to neutralize attacks and continue driving the pace.  Having his years of racing experience are invaluable to our team.  His excellent pack riding set him up for another awesome burn, giving the bike to Laser in perfect position.  Laser was comfortably improving his position when our first disaster of the day struck, in the form of a massive pileup in turn 3.  Cutters, Delts, and Sigma Chi, 3 of our main competitors, joined us in hitting the ground at full speed, allowing Phi Delt and BKB to immediately get a half lap on all of us.  No caution flag came out, so I sprinted across the infield with our second bike.

This picture sums up what I saw by the time I got over there.  Our fork was completely ruined, Laser had our front wheel in his hand, and everyone was just in shock.  He grabbed my bike and started hammering to catch up, but at that point we’d already been lapped and were an additional straightaway off the back.  The other 3 teams were able to get back on their bikes or run them to their pits in decent time, but with the severity of our wreck, we were screwed.  We spent the next 30 laps doing short sets all out to try and catch the pack, but BKB and Phi Delt were full throttle trying to lap the Cutters.  Ultimately, we ended up two laps back, and just accepted that our fate was all but sealed.

The last 100+ laps are just a giant blur in my mind.  I don’t think I ever got on the bike and had a pack to work with, since everyone was either going all out trying to make up laps or try and lap people the entire time.  By the time we finally found ourselves with the leaders again, one of the teams on the front half of the frontstretch ran directly into Laser as he was coming in for an exchange, leaving him lying motionless on the ground.  I sprinted over there with my bike as the yellow flag came out, thinking in my mind a combination of “is he alive?” “what do I do?” and “can this get any worse?”

During the caution I ended up next to the two leaders (3 laps up on us, I think?), who were now just a half lap up on Cutters, Sigma Chi, and Delts.  They had agreed to do a 10-lap TT with one lap pulls, so I offered them my assistance and we quickly lined up ready to drill it.  The green flag came out and there was no holding back as we worked together to try and maintain their advantage.  This worked for a while, but as we started doing exchanges, we got out of sync with them and eventually fell off the pace when an exchange went awry.  Fortunately Laser was alright, and after playing a little game of helmet roulette, was able to keep riding.  Of course the day wouldn’t be complete without yet another crash, though, involving Laser once again.  We were at our wit’s end.

The rest of the race featured more of the same: riding hard in no man’s land, just trying not to crash anymore.  We hoped that by riding hard we’d be able to pass some of the teams that were somehow ahead of us and crack the top 10, but honestly didn’t have a clue just how far back we were.  Eventually we reverted back to our all-out 3-lap set routine, and Ramos finished off a race none of us had even remotely expected.  Naturally the Cutters were able to get back on the lead lap, and despite a valiant effort by the Phi Delts, Eric Young was able to hang with them and win the race with ease.  Hats off to those two for defining the race and showing that they were the two strongest teams out there.

Amidst all the madness of Saturday, however, I still take pride in knowing that we never stopped riding, despite everything that happened.  There were so many times where we could have just thrown in the towel and cut our losses, but we kept fighting.  Our unofficial 17th place result is about 14 places lower than we would have been satisfied with, but given how many crashes we had, I’m just glad no one was seriously injured.  Furthermore, seeing the support we received from our brothers, alumni, and friends was incredibly inspiring, and we can’t thank all of you enough.

On an even more positive note, we saw some flashes of greatness from Ramos and Laser, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we all learned something from our miserable race.  Even better, fortunately all four of us are coming back – with a vengeance – for 2012.  We’re going to be training hard this summer, racing as much as possible, and looking to pick up a few more rookies, so stay tuned on that front.  I speak on behalf of everyone associated with the team in saying that we’re going to be doing everything we can for the next 368 days to put ourselves in a position to cross the finish line on April 21, 2012, with arms raised.

in _kai_
Eric Anderson

One Response

  1. Chris Meador says:

    Eric, great recap! Damn proud of what you guys have accomplished thus far. Train hard this summer and we all look forward to seeing what Beta can accomplish not only next year but years to come.


    Chris Meador

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