That’s how long it took Eric Young to go from being a Little 500 champion to being a national champion.
The former Cutters rider, who signed as a professional cyclist with BISSELL only days after winning the 2011 race, won the USA Cycling Pro Criterium Nationals on Aug. 20 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The race had some similarities to the Little 500.
There was rain. There was a delay. And there was a sprint for the win.
Bikers in the 73-lap race (approximately 50 miles) were 10 laps from completion when the rain started to fall. Young said the road became dangerous with four laps to go.
“People were getting pushed off their bikes, and the barricades were getting blown over, and the tents were flying everywhere,” Young said. “It was pretty unsafe with the slick roads.”
After a rain delay, which Young said lasted about an hour, the race resumed with 30 laps to go.
“All my friends were watching it at the live feed online,” Young said. “And they were just, ‘Oh this (rain delay) is just like Little Five. We’ve got it.’”
On the final lap, there was no breakaway. No sprint starting in the back stretch. No slick cinders on turn three.
But there was Brad Huff, a Jelly Belly cyclist in search of his fourth national championship.
“I was sprinting with this other guy ... sprinting, sprinting, sprinting, and he was in front, and then we were dead even for several seconds,” Young said. “It was close, and just at the end, I got it.”
For the next year, he’ll wear a stars-and-stripes jersey in all U.S. criterium races to signify he is the champion. But when he was back on campus this week, he was sporting a Little 500 shirt, new scars and a little bit of shock.
“I did not expect that to happen, because it’s kind of a big deal,” Young said. “I’m still digesting it, trying to figure out what it means. Everybody in American cycling kind of knows who I am now ... It’s crazy.”
It’s the kind of attention Young shied away from while a part of the Little 500 community and the kind of humility Young’s friend Lyle Feigenbaum said he admires. Feigenbaum is owner of Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse.
“He’s not afraid of hard work,” Feigenbaum said. “He used to work for me. He washed dishes, and one day it was 22 degrees out and he wanted to do a 90-mile ride by himself. This is the middle of winter when nobody is riding, and this kid wants to go do this ride by himself. He’s gifted, sure, but he’s the hardest worker, too.”
Sitting outside the Indiana Memorial Union, Young laughed when asked how long it will be until he races in the Tour de France. After all, he didn’t start racing competitively until his freshman year at IU.
The next step right now for the rookie cyclist is stage races, then hopefully the international scene.
But for now, Young’s still trying to digest this new title.
“I’m excited to see where I go with this bike racing thing,” he wrote on his blog a few days after victory. “But at the same time, I know I’ll never forget where I started: the family.”
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