Steamboat Springs When cyclist Jon Cariveau headed to Nevada last month for the Interbike International Bike Show, he wasn't planning to share the stage with a singing Elvis - but then, anything can happen in Las Vegas.
Cariveau edged James Coats, and 125 other racers, in the 2009 Wheelers and Dealers cyclocross race Sept. 23, and that's exactly where he ended up - sharing the stage with Elvis during the race's awards ceremony.
"I guess that anything can happen in bike racing," Cariveau said.
Cariveau has raced in the professional class of the Las Vegas cyclocross event the past couple of years. That class includes elite international cycling stars.
But this year, the Steamboat Springs racer dropped a class into the Wheelers and Dealers race. He said the field in that class, which included several former national champions, is very competitive. However, it doesn't reach the same level as the professional class he has raced in the past couple of years.
"The pro race has a much harder tempo and a much larger pool of talent," Cariveau said. "It draws racers from around the world - including some of the top riders from Europe - and it's one of the biggest races of the season for those guys.
The Wheelers and Dealers race is more of a working class race.
It's for riders who also work 40 hours a week and can't train around the clock."
But that doesn't mean the field didn't push the pace as the riders ripped around the 1.8-mile course at Desert Breeze Soccer Complex, which is located about six miles from the famous Las Vegas strip. The race took place under the lights, and Cariveau said the atmosphere was electric, and the event was as exciting as the more elite level pro division.
Cariveau broke away from the pack along with a group of about 10 other riders early in the race. In cyclocross, riders must navigate an off-road style course and must dismount and carry their bikes through certain sections of the course. Most races consist of multiple laps.
"It's like the steeple chase of bike racing," Cariveau said about cyclocross.
In the end, the race came down to a duel between Cariveau and Coats, of Campbell, Calif., who was riding for Specialized. Cariveau finished with a time of 28 minutes and 2 seconds. Coats was right behind him at 28:04, and Brendan O'Brien, of Morgan Hill, Calif., was third at 28:15. O'Brien also was riding for Specialized.
Cariveau is hoping the top finish is just the beginning for his cyclocross season. Last weekend, the Steamboat Springs rider placed second at the Fourth Annual Frisco Cross, which was part of the 2009 Colorado cyclocross schedule. He leaves later this week for Providence, R.I., where he will attend Interbike's Outdoor Demo East and compete in the Providence Cyclocross Festival.