Saturday began sunny but brisk as Matt Everly and other college students from across the state donned brightly colored spandex suits and stepped onto their bicycle pedals.
Small groups of men biked slowly through the posted route around the Oval to warm up for the 23rd Annual CSU Oval Criterium.
After pumping himself up, Everly stayed in the main group for most of the race, but for the last lap he “let the adrenaline take over,” which gained him the win for his section of the race, which is one of the most respected in northern Colorado.
The Criterium is the first road bike race of the year. Collegiate teams from all over the state come to CSU to race, as well as several members from surrounding states such as New Mexico and Utah.
The first Criterium took place in 1986 making it one of the oldest bike races in Colorado. An entrance fee is required for each competitor and the money goes to the Rams Cycling team.
Team member Chris Hall said the race comes during what he called road biking’s “preseason.”
The race is open to both collegiate and professional racers. The morning consists of six collegiate races, which are broken down into the categories of men’s and women’s and then further broken down by level.
“There are three levels of race,” said Rams Cycling team President Erick Carlson. “The ‘C’ races are in the morning, and they’re for beginners who have never really raced before, then there are the ‘B’ races for people who have some experience, and the ‘A’ races are advanced. They get longer and faster throughout the day.”
The tension in the air was palpable as the men began their 45-minute race. It was the fourth race of the day, and so far CSU had won each of them.
The race began with little mishap. In the first several laps a small group raced ahead of the pack. Everly remained in the main group of riders.
By the middle of the race the gap had grown between the two packs until the small group was more than 15 seconds ahead.
The main group worked to catch up with the small pack and succeeded in the last 10 laps of the race.
Within the final four laps of the race a rider of CU-Colorado Springs raced ahead of the pack. Riders from CU-Boulder and CSU were quick to respond and raced to catch up.
In the final lap of the race all bets were off; there was no obvious contender for first place.
The small pack of bikers that had led the first half of the race had been completely absorbed into the main group.
In the last 50 yards, Everly pulled into the lead, neck and neck with two racers from CU-Boulder. The crowd cheered as Everly flew past the finish line, winning by a wheel.
He stumbled off his bike, his face split by a smile, and walked over to his parents and fans.
“I didn’t even realize it was the final lap,” he explained to his teammates, grinning.
CSU won every race Saturday morning, with the exception of the men’s A race.
Staff Writer Ashley Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.