EagleVail rider Cristhian Ravelo off to successful spring with CS Velo
Team ushered Sean Gardner to GC title at Tour of the Gila at the beginning of month
This May, CS Velo Racing’s Cristhian Ravelo placed 12th in the general classification (GC) standings of one of the premiere pro cycling stage races in the U.S., the five-stage Tour of the 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 overall GC winner Sean Gardner, in the top 15.
“We had just an insane week I guess,” Ravelo said, adding that normally the team would have been pleased with one or two top-10s.
“But this year our expectations were higher and I think everybody showed up fit, and after the first day I think we realized that we were one of the better teams,” he said.
Domestic elite teams such as CS Velo, for whom Ravelo has ridden with since 2019, are “stepping stones to the professional level,” according to U.S. Cycling. They often compete alongside Union Cycliste Internationale’s upper three classifications — WorldTeam (Tour de France teams), pro continental and continental — at UCI stage races in the U.S. such as the Tour of the Gila. Recently, the national cycling landscape has shifted toward a revitalization of criterium races and a move to gravel. As a result, many staple stage races have folded.
“Gila is probably the biggest race in the country, and one of the hardest,” Ravelo said. “So, hopefully some good stuff will come out of this.”
The 93.9-mile point-to-point first stage finished with a 3.8-mile climb on a narrow, rough road pitching up to grades of 13, 15 and 19% before the finish.
“The fight is to that corner,” Ravelo explained. “It’s almost like a finishing sprint to that corner.” Gardner and Ravelo finished seventh and 15th, respectively.
“We were hoping for a top result today, and me, Gardener and Cristhian [Ravelo] can all climb quite well,” teammate Alexander White told the media afterward.
“But we’re all on to Day 2 with as much time, and looking to come back throughout the week.”
With 22,000 feet of climbing over 328 miles — at altitude — the course was well suited for Gardner, the former “Everesting’ world record holder, and Ravelo, who has lived and trained at altitude his whole life.
“It’s a lot of climbing, which suits a smaller guy,” he said.
Heading into day two, CS Velo was hoping to blow up the stage’s typical sprint finish.
“There’s always kind of a script to these races and we decided that we were going to try and flip the script and we had nothing to lose,” Ravelo recalled. The peloton received the message, loud and clear.
“They were super committed to it.”
After two stages, CS Velo held a slight advantage in the team race, but Gardner was 28 seconds back in sixth for the GC.
The third stage time trial was “about minimizing your losses” according to Ravelo, followed by the criterium — “don’t get hurt” — in stage four. Heading into the final stage, Gardner was in seventh, 2:07 back.
“The big days are usually the last day,” Ravelo said, hinting at the 100.7-mile final race, which included four king-of-the-mountain ascents.
“That’s kind of where it all played out.”
Though he eventually fell off the lead pack, with a top-nine trading haymakers over the final 75 miles, Ravelo was able to move up from 13th to 12th in the final standings.
“That day, we kind of just went into it and were like, ‘let’s make it hard and whoever has the best legs is going to have the best legs,” he said.
“Sean was on a whole ‘nother level that day.”
Gardner was unaware of his overall victory when he crossed the line. His cumulative time tied Dal-Cin, but the CS Velo rider was awarded a bonus four seconds for being in the top three in the stage.
“The team was riding strong all day and was able to fight at the end and hold onto the Canel’s team,” Gardner told the post-race media.
“They were riding strong, too. [We] got the overall GC… so I’m pretty hyped.”
Not riding off into the sunset yet
At 29, Ravelo, whose father was also a professional cyclist, isn’t looking to go advance his career in Europe. He’s content with his current situation and happily striving to maximize it.
“I’m definitely enjoying 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 the way that I’m able to do it is fun and it allows me to have a little bit of a normal life, too,“ he said.
“I’m obviously a little 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 kind of just take it day to day and year to year.”
Being that an eighth-place finish in the 2016 Leadville 100 launched his trajectory, Ravelo hinted at the possibility of returning to gravel in the latter stages of his career.
“Probably later on I could see myself racing full gravel,” he said, noting that he did Steamboat Gravel last year. With a post-COVID return to a full road schedule, he doesn’t anticipate racing as much on dirt in 2022. He’ll be well suited, however, if and when he does make the shift.
“It benefits me that I grew up mountain biking,” he argued.
“Obviously, as a road rider you have the endurance. 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 out Monday for the Joe Martin Stage race 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, the Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin and U.S. Pro Road Nationals in Tennessee.
“I would like to see American racing grow and its kind of on the up right now, so it’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 that you’re recovering well,” he said.
“When you’re coming off of races like Gila, you just kind of come off super fit.”
Though specific workouts and training loads fluctuate throughout the year, the altitude-raised endurance star tends to lean into his natural aerobic strength whenever he can.
“Three to four hours, intervals, kind of hard, a bit of everything … and a lot of climbing,” he described of his go-to workout.
“I think climbing gets you fit. It just kind of does it.”