In May, Cristhian Ravelo of CS Velo Racing placed 12th overall (GC) in one of the premier professional stage cycling races in the United States, the five-stage Tour of Gila in Silver City, New Mexico. . The EagleVail rider helped CS Velo place second in the team competition and was one of four teammates, including GC overall winner Sean Gardner, in the top 15.
“We’ve had a crazy week, I guess,” Ravelo said, adding that normally the team would have been happy with a top 10 or two.
“But this year our expectations were higher and I think everyone showed good form, and after day one I think we realized we were one of the best teams,” he said. -he declares.
National elite teams such as CS Velo, for which Ravelo has been riding since 2019, are “stepping stones to the professional level”. according to US Cycling. They often compete alongside the top three rankings of the Union Cycliste Internationale – WorldTeam (Tour de France teams), pro continental and continental – at UCI stage races in the United States such as the Tour of the Gila. Recently, the national cycling landscape has been moving towards a revitalization of criterium racing and passage to gravel. As a result, many grassroots stage races folded.
“Gila is probably the biggest race in the country and one of the toughest,” Ravelo said. “So hopefully good things will come out of it.”
The first 93.9-mile point-to-point stage ended with a 3.8-mile climb on a narrow and rugged road with gradients of 13, 15 and 19% before the finish.
“The fight is in this corner,” Ravelo explained. “It’s almost like a final sprint to that corner.” Gardner and Ravelo finished seventh and 15th respectively.
“We were hoping for a great result today, and me, Gardener and Cristhian [Ravelo] can all climb very well,” teammate Alexander White told the media afterwards.
“But we’re all on Day 2 with so much time and hope to come back throughout the week.”
With 22,000 feet of vertical drop over 328 miles – at altitude – the course was well suited to Gardner, the former “Everesting” world record holder.and Ravelo, who has lived and trained at altitude all his life.
“It’s a lot of climbing, which is fine for a little guy,” he said.
As the second day approached, CS Velo hoped to explode the finish in the typical sprint of the stage.
“There’s always a kind of script in these races and we decided we were going to try to flip the script and we had nothing to lose,” Ravelo recalled. The peloton got the message loud and clear.
“CS Velo was super aggressive on the first two climbs, and we hit the road,” Matteo Dal-Cin told the media afterwards..
“They were super committed.”
After two stages, CS Velo held a slight advantage in the team race, but Gardner was 28 seconds behind in sixth for the GC.
According to Ravelo, the stage three time trial was all about “minimizing your losses”, followed by the criterium – “don’t get hurt” – in stage four. Heading into the final leg, Gardner was seventh, at 2:07.
“The big days are usually the last day,” Ravelo said, referring to the final 100.7-mile race, which included four ascents of the King of the Mountain.
“That’s sort of where it all came down to.”
Although he eventually fell out of the lead pack, with a top nine commercial tedder over the final 75 miles, Ravelo was able to move up from 13th to 12th in the final standings.
“That day, we kind of went for it and said, ‘Let’s make it hard and whoever has the best legs will have the best legs,'” he said.
“Sean was on a whole new level that day.”
Gardner was unaware of his overall victory when he crossed the line. His cumulative time equaled Dal-Cin, but the CS Velo rider received a four-second bonus for being in the top three of the stage.
“The team rode hard all day and was able to fight back at the end and keep Canel’s team,” Gardner told post-race media.
“They were driving hard too. [We] got the general GC… so I’m pretty excited.
I haven’t gone to sunset yet
At 29, Ravelo, whose father was also a professional cyclist, is not looking to advance his career in Europe. He is content with his current situation and happily strives to maximize it.
“I really appreciate what I can. If something bigger comes along and it allows for a balanced life, I’d approach that, but right now where I’m at and how I’m able to do it is fun and it allows me to have a bit of a normal life too,” he said.
“Obviously I’m a bit older, but this year I feel like I’ve been riding better than the last two years. You’re always looking for more funding and things like that, but you take it day by day and year by year.
Given that an eighth-place finish in the 2016 Leadville 100 kickstarted his trajectory, Ravelo hinted at the possibility of returning to gravel in the later stages of his career.
“Probably later on I could see myself racing on full gravel,” he said, noting that he had done Steamboat Gravel last year. With a post-COVID return to a full road program, he doesn’t anticipate racing on dirt as much in 2022. He will be well-adjusted, however, if and when he makes the switch.
“It benefits me that I grew up riding mountain bikes,” he explained.
“Obviously as a road cyclist you have the stamina. Some guys come straight from the road and they’re just not very good on a bike and you have to be for that.
He flies Monday for the Joe Martin Stage race from May 19-22, kicking off a hot summer of constant travel and long hours in the saddle. The Armed Forces Cycling Classic kicks off three events in June: the Harlem Criterium, Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin and the US Pro Road Nationals in Tennessee.
“I’d like to see American racing grow and it’s kind of up right now, so that’s good,” he said.
At this stage of the season, recovery becomes the daily focus.
“It’s basically about sharpening the knife and making sure you recover well,” he said.
“When you come out of races like Gila, you just come out super fit.”
Although specific workouts and training loads fluctuate throughout the year, the high-altitude endurance star tends to lean into his natural aerobic strength whenever he can.
“Three to four hours, intervals, a little hard, a little bit of everything…and a lot of climbing,” he described of his go-to workout.
“I think climbing gets you in shape. It kind of does.