Runnin’ with Rani: Big Island cycling phenom Caleb Barville targets National Championships

To say that Kailua-Kona’s Caleb Barville has been on a roll would be a gross understatement.

The 17-year-old Kealakehe High School senior has been on fire, a savvy beast on two wheels, lighting up every result board in 2019 with a new record, personal best, or KOM (King of the Mountain) status, and crushing on his way to countless first place podium finishes.

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While that would have been a satisfying outcome to just about any teenager, Barville turned heads again at his debut on a relay team for the Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic Distance Triathlon just two weeks ago.

Not only did he ferociously pedal away from everyone in sight over the 40K bike segment, Barville completely obliterated the bike course record with a jaw-dropping record setting time of 53 minutes and 37 seconds.

The previous best of 54:56 was set by Daniel Folmar in 2012. And, Barville nonchalantly did it without the aerodynamic aid of using an aero helmet or disk wheel.

Aside from his natural born talents, what has separated Barville from most kids his age has been his unwavering desire to give back to the community in which he was raised.

Earlier in the year, Barville began the Inaugural Big Island Hill Climb Racing Series, a weekly competitive cycling race series of ten events featuring some of Kona’s most deceptively steep hill climbs with gradients ranging between 7 and 16-percent, to help boost the local cycling culture and cycling awareness in the community.

All events were free of charge except for Saturday’s race – the Lako KOM Challenge – where entry fees received were donated to the Go Wild Scholarship Fund.

Of course, Barville has won every event in his hill climb race series thus far and so it was no surprise to see him take gold at Saturday’s championship, a .7-mile grind with an average gradient of 13 percent.

“It went great,” Barville said after crossing the finish line in a winning time of 5:12:49. “It was an awesome turnout, I think 23 riders total. For the Big Island Hill Climb Race Series, that’s the most people that participated. We raised over $750 for the Go Wild Scholarship for high school seniors. So overall, I feel it was a really good turnout and event.”

Barville added that having the dual-role of race director and competitor has its challenges, as it left no time for him to warm-up before tackling the brutal climb.

“It was definitely more difficult than others because I had to set up and coordinate all of the awards, and get people starting (on 30 second intervals) along with everything else so that made it harder,” he said.

Alaska’s Brent Lowen grinded out the second fastest time of 5:42:47, and was closely followed by fellow Alaskan, John Clark, in 6:18:01. Both were impressed with Barville’s cycling talents as well as race organization skills.

“I felt horrible, it’s such a hard climb,” Lowen said with a laugh. “But it’s pretty amazing and very impressive for Caleb to be putting this on. His bike leg on the Lavaman relay was pretty impressive too.”

Clark, who frequently organizes road races back home in Anchorage, Alaska added, “I felt pretty good as we have been training quite a bit here. I think it’s super impressive for Caleb to be putting on an event like this as a 17-year-old. I think it’s super cool and hopefully he will inspire other people to put on races as well.”

Bree Brown, who plans on competing in the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Hawaii “Honu” triathlon event in June and turned out because “Caleb asked me to,” took top honors in the women’s division with a stellar time of 7:35:32.

“Being a teacher, I know the importance of supporting the dreams of the kids,” Brown said. “I’ve never ridden up Lako and — it was horrible! But it was awesome because of the people. Everyone is super supportive and it felt good to be back doing something in the community. I wish Caleb the best of luck promoting these races. I think our island really needs these kinds of races.”

Kailua-Kona’s Jacob Head (7:55:14) and Jeff Lassle (7:59:20) finished shortly after Brown. All they could comment on was how brutal of a climb it turned out to be.

“It was very painful,” Head said with a chuckle. “I hadn’t done anything long, only been riding on Zwift. But it was good — it was good training, good day out, nice cool weather, so it’s always fun.”

Lassle added; “I was thinking this was going to be the toughest one of all of them, and oh yeah — burn, burn, burn. Lungs, legs, just everything! When I saw the end and started to give it my all is when I started to feel it really burning.”

For Barville, his bright future in the competitive world of cycling is only just beginning. On June 20-23 he plans to compete in the USA Cycling Amateur National Championship Time Trial and Road Race Championships in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“I’ve improved quite a bit due to me focusing a lot on my riding,” Barville said. “I’m hoping to get over to Maryland in June for the National Amateur Time Trial Championships. The distance is 18 kilometers or 11 miles, and from the power numbers it looks like there’s a chance that I could do really well.”

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To help offset travel and racing costs and to further help his future in cycling, a GoFundMe page for donations has been set up at GoFundMe.com/caleb2019cyclingraces.

“I’m really excited and just thankful to everyone who has supported me.”

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