Cyclist Cristhian Ravelo headed home for Colorado event after team’s win in Utah
EagleVail road biker’s 13th-place finish helped propel team to victory at most recent event in USA Crits series
VAIL — In 2020, after one particularly negative projection on the future of the pandemic and its effect on the road cycling scene, CS Velo team owner Kurt Dodds considered shutting down the team.
CS Velo started as a club before becoming an elite team in 2016 with a goal of having a Philadelphia-based team, with Philadelphia-based riders, to compete at home in the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic.
“But the Philly classic went away a few years ago, and our program was getting a little more established and well known by riders around the country, and we branched out to be more than just Philly-based,” Dodds said.
Dodds began to look for riders outside of the Philadelphia area to compete in events around the country and went to the 303 Project in Boulder where he acquired athletes Taylor Warren and Cristhian Ravelo.
Ravelo, a homegrown Eagle County athlete whose family has long ties to professional cycling in both North and South America, said he immediately took to the new team.
The team with Ravelo won a USA Cycling Pro Road Tour race in Pennsylvania, about an hour from Dodds’ home, in 2019.
“It was great to win that, being local,” Dodds said.
But at the same time, the team was branching out and beginning to look like it could be more than a team for Pennsylvanians to cheer for.
“We added a racer out of North Carolina and a young guy out of Boston, and all of a sudden in 2018-19 we became much more geographically dispersed, and that just opened up markets for us to attract other riders and just really add a whole bunch of strength and depth to the team,” Dodds said.
At the end of 2019, Dodds hired a full-time mechanic and a full-time director to help take things to the next level.
The 2020 season began, and the CS Velo team competed in a race or two before arriving in Birmingham, Alabama, for a USA Cycling Pro Road Tour event, with Dodds on his way to meet them.
“And then everything got shut down,” Dodds said. “We were en route to the airport, so obviously we did not board that flight.”
Dodds said in the months that followed that he had to make some tough decisions — there was no work for the newly acquired mechanic and team director, and they didn’t know if road racing would ever come back the way it was.
“We were questioning whether we were going to continue the program,” he said.
‘Fit and ready to race’
But the athletes were staying in shape, and road bike manufacturers were having a big summer as people sought the outdoors in an effort to avoid COVID-19 transmission zones.
Ravelo made headlines around Colorado when he climbed the vertical elevation of Mount Everest in one day on his bike in Avon.
“It can go either way,” Ravelo said of the pandemic. “Some people are just over cycling, and some people are ready to go fast.”
Dodds said he had extensive talks with his wife, who is a utility player for the team, performing the roles of chef, travel coordinator and, occasionally, doctor.
“We just figured that there’s no way we could let this go,” he said.
The team went into 2021 feeling fast.
“Our team came out of the quarantine riding well,” Ravelo said. “Everybody showed up fit and ready to race.”
Dodds landed a new bike sponsor for the team, Ventum Bikes out of Salt Lake City.
While CS Velo is more of a stage racing team, this year the action is in criterium racing — short, fast laps around an urban area — as USA Crits kicked off their series unobstructed.
“It’s the racing that’s happening right now,” Ravelo said. “Usually we would have our stage races in the spring, but this year with the pandemic, a lot of the stage races moved to the fall.”
Dodds said CS Velo adapted a bit in building out a criterium racing squad.
“It’s very different — it’s flat, it’s fast, there’s corners and it’s very risky and dangerous,” he said.
For the 10-race USA Crits series, “We established a core team of six guys,” Dodds said.
Ravelo is on that core team; he performs best in the higher elevation races, or courses in which there is a slight hill.
The most recent USA Crits race was July 18 in Salt Lake City, home of CS Velo’s new bike sponsor in Ventum Bikes. There, Ravelo found a course that suited him well.
Ravelo finished 13th overall in the Salt Lake event, one of three CS Velo riders in the top 15. As a result, CS Velo rode away with the overall team win at that day’s race.
“We got a picture on the podium, won some cash, which is also helpful and great, but overall it was a big breakthrough performance,” Dodds said. “It was huge.”
The next event on the USA Crits series is in Littleton on Saturday, July 31.
Ravelo said he’s looking forward to the only home event for him in the USA Crits series.
“We’ve showed everybody that we deserve a spot on the calendar,” he said. “Now we just have to do it consistently.”
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