His coach Eric Anderson called the performance the ITT version of the Dixie Highway Award. In 2013, Beta Theta Pi’s Chris Craig finished 111th overall at ITTs (yes, that’s one-hundred eleventh, not a typo). This year, he was faster than every other rider in the field. 111th to 1st.
How did he do it? How has his training changed? What, overall, has changed for him in the last year?
And what’s it like trying to defend Beta’s title after losing all four riders from last year’s championship team?
We asked. Craig answered.
While Craig is humbled by the win, he understands his team of four race rookies still has a lot to work on before race day.
33to1: How were the nerves going into Saturday?
Craig: I felt pretty relaxed. I didn’t really know quite what to expect going in, just wanted to try to perform my best. We’ve been training hard all year. i was just really excited to get out on the track. With the rain delay and everything like that, I was just ready to get out there.
33to1: Was that weird having ITTs pushed back four days?
Craig: We had to adjust for it. We were considering doing a race over the weekend and we had to cancel that and stay here and train. Things did work out how we hoped it would, though. We felt good going into the day.
33to1: When you completed your ITT run, did you have any idea that you did sub-2:23? (Craig won ITTs with a 2:22.98)
Craig: No, actually. I thought I was around a high 2:23. I actually wasn’t too sure how well the run was going half way through until I was getting yelled at by Eric (Anderson) saying that I was on pace to break 2:24. That really pumped me up for the last lap and I just went all out.
33to1: What was Eric’s reaction, especially since you beat his time from last year?
Craig: I’d say he was happily surprised.
33to1: What’s been the biggest change in your training?
Craig: To be honest, I started training. Last year, I really didn’t train too much. ITTs last year was my first day on the track that season. Last year I took more of a supportive role to the rest of the team. They were all really strong and integrated well to each other.
So when it came in to this year, all four of them graduated and it was my turn to step up. I just trained hard all year and was very surprised and happy to see how things worked out.
33to1: What did you learn from watching those four guys last year?
Craig: Throughout the year, I picked up a lot of the ways they trained and the high work ethic that they had, (Tom) Laser, especially. Many times, I’d walk by our bike room, he’d just be in there, hours on the rollers working hard. When it came into this year, I wanted to make the team from last year proud, and just work hard.
33to1: What’s it mean to you that you put up the fastest time in Beta history and you’re the first Beta to win ITTs since 2003?
Craig: I’m honored. I’m just proud of my team. We all did well, too. Kyle Knight got 7th. Joe (Laughlin) got 17th and A.J. (Sood) was around there too. I just want to keep the ball moving. Get focused for Miss ‘N Out and Team Pursuit, and see what happens race day.
33to1: What, if anything, do you think this performance does for the team, because you guys might have been a little under the radar since all four of your riders this year haven’t raced in the race. What does a strong team performance at ITTs do for you guys looking forward to the race?
Craig: We were in a rebuilding year, working hard to try to get other teams to start to see us out there. This definitely turned some heads, and we understand that. We don’t want to let it get to our heads, though. We still know there are many strong teams out there. I think, for us, it’s more of a confidence that we’re in the mix of things. We could potentially be there at the end of the race in that final sprint. That’s not something that’s impossible anymore. That’s quite reachable, actually. We just have to see how things work out.
All in all, the thing is, we’re just really happy we’re here and this is how it worked out and we’re in good shape now. We just want to keep working hard and be respectful to other teams at the track and understand that there are very experienced riders out there.
33to1: Did any riders say anything to you after you won?
Craig: Rob Lee (of Phi Delta Theta) and some other guys came up to me. Very nice, and they congratulated me on the win. Probably a little surprised too, that I won, I wouldn’t be surprised. I surprised myself a little bit, too. Everyone was very nice to me.
33to1: How long did that take to sink in that you beat guys like Rob Lee, Paul Smith, all the Black Key Bulls guys?
Craig: Rob Lee is still sinking in a little bit. A lot of people didn’t know this, but I actually had the fastest Quals split. I had a low 32, I think. A lot of people didn’t know that. It was kind of funny because Jordan Bailey (the Little 500 Race Director), I was talking to him before ITTs, and he was saying how he had an interview with you, and he was saying how he was comparing Rob Lee and Paul Smith’s fast split times, and he forgot to even look at mine and didn’t realize that I had the fastest one. I was actually talking to him about it right before I hit the track. I was like, “Oh yeah, you didn’t realize I had the fastest ones?” And he was like, “No, I had no idea!” I remember saying to him, “I guess I’ll be in the mix. We’ll see what happens.” It worked out. It was a funny story.