On Sunday, cycling co-captain Erik Levinsohn ’12 traveled solo to the U.S. Collegiate Road National Championships in Ogden, Utah.
Despite a crash-riddled race, Levinsohn, who finished the season ranked fourth in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC), hammered out a fifth-place podium finish in the men’s Div. II road race. Cortlan Brown of Salt Lake Community College took home first-place honors.
The 80-mile road race course featured three flat, 15-mile laps around a local reservoir and a 32-mile lap around and up Lewis Peak. Going into the first flat lap of the race, Levinsohn said his plan was to “take things easy for as long as possible, marking who I took to be the two strongest climbers in the ECCC: Eddie Grystar of Brown and Robin Carpenter of Swarthmore – no sense in wasting energy before the race really started to get interesting.” With the pack churning along at a brisk pace of 30 mph, Levinsohn easily kept pace with the leaders along the flat lake road.
Any hope of a calm start was dashed, however, when a brutal crash in the feed station took out nearly half of the pack, putting Levinsohn in the dirt and ending the day for 17 riders. While Levinsohn survived the crash without serious injury, his bike took a beating and it was nearly two minutes before he could get back on the road.
Leaving the carnage of the crash behind him, Levinsohn found himself riding solo, far behind those who had avoided the crash but well ahead of many who had suffered more severe medical or mechanical problems. Digging deep, Levinsohn gained time on a few riders up the road, eventually forming a small group that included ECCC season champion Adam Bry of MIT. With Bry in tow, Levinsohn was able to rejoin the field after the first full lap.
With the field taking the remaining flat laps at a more relaxed pace, all signs pointed to the final climb of the day as the deciding factor in the race.
As Levinsohn hit the final climb – a four-mile sustained ascent with over 2000 feet of vertical gain – he went deep into what he described as the “pain cave.” Pushing hard, Levinsohn overtook roughly 30 riders, eventually reaching and passing season-long rival Carpenter. By the time Levinsohn hit the top of the climb at mile 70, he sat in fourth place, right on the wheel of Anthony Olson, the third-placed rider from Minnesota State.
As Levinsohn crested the top of the climb, however, he was faced with a brutal descent along winding, poorly-paved roads. Having gained so much ground, Levinsohn couldn’t afford to take the descent conservatively, forcing him to take an aggressively low and forward position on the bike. “Crashing at 50 mph is not a pleasant thing to think about,” Levinsohn said. “Every time my wheel skipped, my heart did the same.”
Levinsohn survived the descent, along with Olson and Ryan Sullivan of Cumberland. But with Carpenter charging towards them as well, Levinsohn began to fear for his podium spot.
Luckily, strong pulls from Levinsohn were able to keep Carpenter away, and despite being outsprinted at the line by his companions, Levinsohn was able to hold on for fifth and a spot on the national podium.
“It was a great culmination to my cycling career at Williams,” said Levinsohn after the race, “to have come so far, having just started cycling three years ago, is still a little surreal for me. I feel so fortunate to have had incredible support from friends, teammates, coaches and especially my family. Even though I was racing without teammates today, it certainly was not a solo effort.”
Although this was Levinsohn’s last year competing for the Ephs, he plans to continue racing this summer with the semi-professional Boston Bicycle School team.