It wasn’t about claiming the white jersey or beating Delta Tau Delta in the finals. It wasn’t about repeating as Spring Series champs or heading into the men’s Little 500 with momentum.
Sunday was about C.T. Blackwell.
One of the founding members of Black Key Bulls, Blackwell died April 5 after losing his 13-month-long battle with cancer.
This last week has put an emotional strain on all seven current Black Key Bulls riders, its coaching staff and alumni.
That’s why when Tyler Hart crossed the finish line in 8:56.42, he had tears in his eyes.
“I thought about C.T. a ton,” Hart said, fighting off tears. “It was like riding with an extra man tonight.”
Black Key Bulls’ win allowed them to make up 12 points on Beta Theta Pi to win the Spring Series title.
Beta had built up their lead by putting three riders into the semifinals and two riders into the finals of Miss-N-Outs on Saturday.
Chris Craig led the field Saturday, beating out Phi Delta Theta’s Rob Lee and Cutters’ Nicholas Thiery in a spring to claim the men’s Miss-N-Outs crown for a second consecutive year.
Craig said the win was rewarding after coming up just short in repeating as ITT champion where he finished second behind Thiery.
“I was very happy with our team performance in ITTs, but you know, I really wanted to win it this year,” Craig said Saturday. “Getting the Miss-N-Outs win was really good for me on my senior year.”
But at the end of the weekend, it was Black Key Bulls who left Bill Armstrong Stadium with the top prize.
They nearly lost it, too, had it not been for a strong closing in their initial Team Pursuit run to get them into the finals.
Hart briefly lost touch with his teammates when his wheel washed out heading into Turn 1 in the early laps but was able to make up his lost ground without losing time.
A few laps later, Spencer Brauchla, the team’s quickest ITT rider and only rider with race experience, was the first to drop out, leaving his teammates to finish the run at 9:07.61.
To add to an already successful day, Black Key Bulls’ B-Team of the remaining three riders on their seven-man roster finished in third place at 9:15.35.
Black Key Bulls’ B-Team was about three seconds short of making it an all-Black Key Bulls ?championship race.
“Again, it just speaks to our depth,” Brauchla said. “Those guys worked hard and they showed the results out there. It says a lot about just how strong our team is.”
Black Key Bulls and the other 32 teams will have 12 more days of training ahead of them before race day April 25.
Teams will use the remaining days to select their race lineups and get into race shape before the green flag drops.
Come race day, everyone will be chasing the polesitters, Wright, into Turn 1, but Black Key Bulls feels like they’ve proven once again in Spring Series that the defending champs are eyeing another Borg-Warner Trophy.
And when they do take the track, Blackwell will be on their minds. Black Key Bulls plans to represent Blackwell with a decal on their race bikes.
All the riders will be wearing armbands, just like Blackwell used to wear.
Because this year isn’t just about defending a trophy in a bicycle race.
It’s for an old friend.
“We knew we had to do it,” Hart said. “We had to ride strong. That’s the way he always rode ...
“It just — it just means ?a ton.”