By Vicky Sama
Only minutes into the 79-mile road race, someone in the pack moved the wrong way and about half of the 98 riders in the Division II men’s field crashed to the ground. Nate Abel’s Cervelo fork cracked. His front wheel bent like a taco. Riders scrambled to get off the pavement. Their bike jerseys were torn and blood-stained. It was a mess. “I thought I was going to stop,” said Abel, whose left eye was visibly bruised and swollen. “I squeezed my breaks, but then uh-oh.”
Abel’s HSU teammate Luke Ramseth escaped the fray, but shortly after, Ramseth’s rear tire flatted. The Shimano follow vehicle, loaded with extra wheels for such emergencies, was busy back at the crash helping dozens of riders. So Ramseth was stuck out in no-mans-land. He stood on the side of the road waiting for what seemed like ten minutes– an eternity in bike racing– to get a wheel change. The main field was now way ahead of Ramseth and possibly out of reach. Could he catch them?
Ramseth’s bad luck at the Collegiate Cycling National Championships started on Saturday during the 75-minute criterium in the city’s historic downtown. On the final lap of the race, riders on the left side of the course hit the barricades, taking Ramseth down with them. Before that, things looked promising. Ramseth maintained a good position toward the front of the pack and was poised to finish well. His dream of finishing on the podium for the crit was shattered. “I didn’t hit the ground too hard,” Ramseth said. “But then someone ran over my back and hit my head.”
Back at the road race, Ramseth finally got his rear wheel replaced. He noticed a small group of riders who survived the crash coming up from behind. He convinced them to ride hard. “Some of the guys seemed like they wanted to give up,” he said. “But we worked together for another lap, and then we caught everyone.”
By the time the main pack was on its final lap around Pineview Reservoir, Ramseth was riding comfortably toward the front. Richard Geng from Colorado Mesa University was in a solo break about two minutes ahead. “We caught him just before the big climb,” Ramseth said.
When the pack turned onto North Ogden Canyon Road, several cyclists attacked. Ramseth kept his cool, pacing himself up the climb to about 6200 feet– well above sea level where he trains in Humboldt County. “I just settled in. It was hard to see a huge group go ahead, but then they started coming back,” he said. “We picked some people off in the last few miles, and I kept catching people.”
Ramseth sprinted to the finish line, getting 8th place in the road race– an impressive top ten finish for his final collegiate national championships. Fifty-five cyclists finished the race. Forty-three others didn’t. Geng finished forty-fourth.
In other road race results, HSU’s Hayley Umayam, who raced in her first collegiate nationals ever, finished 10th and Traci Kroll 18th in the Women’s Division II, 63-mile road race. Umayam finished 13th in Saturday’s crit, and that gave her enough points to end up 10th in the Women’s Div. II overall standings.
For full results from the Collegiate Cycling National Championships, check USA Cycling.org.