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Airman faces world's best at military world games

MUNGYEONG, SOUTH KOREA – Maj. Ian Holt, center, and teammates on the U.S. Armed Forces cycling team in front of the mascots of the sixth Conseil International du Sport Militaire military sports world championships held in Mungyeong, South Korea Oct. 2-11, 2015. Seven of the 11 riders on the men’s and women’s teams represented the Air Force.

MUNGYEONG, SOUTH KOREA – Maj. Ian Holt, center, and teammates on the U.S. Armed Forces cycling team in front of the mascots of the sixth Conseil International du Sport Militaire military sports world championships held in Mungyeong, South Korea Oct. 2-11, 2015. Seven of the 11 riders on the men’s and women’s teams represented the Air Force.

MUNGYEONG, SOUTH KOREA – Riders of the U.S. Armed Forces cycling team join their counterparts from other countries on a training ride near Mungyeong, South Korea during the sixth Conseil International du Sport Militaire military sports world championships Oct. 2-11, 2015. The men’s team finished ninth in the 131 kilometer road race.

MUNGYEONG, SOUTH KOREA – Riders of the U.S. Armed Forces cycling team join their counterparts from other countries on a training ride near Mungyeong, South Korea during the sixth Conseil International du Sport Militaire military sports world championships Oct. 2-11, 2015. The men’s team finished ninth in the 131 kilometer road race.

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Ian Holt, member of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, is used to riding in elite, world class cycling events. The latest was the biggest of them all - the sixth Conseil International du Sport Militaire - the international military sports championships held Oct. 2-11, 2015 in Mungyeong, South Korea.

Holt participated in the individual time trial Oct. 6 and as part of an eight man team in the 131 kilometer road race on Oct. 8. He has competed in several military cycling world championships, but this was his first world military games, an event akin to the Olympics for military members from around the globe.

"I've heard it said it is second only to the Olympics. There were about 7,000 athletes from 240 countries," Holt said. The event site was like its own little base similar to the size of the Peterson Air Force Base, including three separate athlete's villages. "The opening ceremonies were incredibale. It was just like at the Olympics with a big stadium, the stands were full and there were tons of performers. It was much bigger than I'd anticipated."

Each country was allowed two riders to compete in the individual time trial, a race against the clock. For the U.S. team it was Holt and 2014 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate 2nd Lt. Stefan Zavislan. Holt didn't do as well as he hoped coming away with a 20th place finish in the event, while Zavislan finished 12th.

"I really felt I should have had a top 10," Holt said. He was impressed with Zavislan's result. Holt coached him as a cadet on the USAFA team. "It was good to see him do well and step up at the biggest event he's ever done." Holt was Headquarters Air Force Space Command vault concepts lead before moving to the WCAP to prepare for the championships. As part of the program he is assigned to Lackland AFB and attached to 10th Force Support Squadron at the USAFA.

The road race was the big event with nearly 90 riders from 16 nations taking on the fast course around the Mungyeong area. Because it was a world games, Holt said a lot of countries that do not typically field teams in a cycling championship sent contingents to South Korea. Because it is left to the individual countries to determine military status, many of those teams were made up of contracted professionals.

The course was wide open with only a few technical turns setting the stage for a fast race. The pace for the first hour was around 30 miles per hour which didn't allow for any of the riders to take it easy. Holt said the team had to be active for the entire race to cover attacks, burning up some riders in the process. In the end the average speed for the entire race was about 28 mph. For perspective, the fastest World Championship road race in 2002 averaged 28.7 mph.

With only a couple of laps remaining, Holt initiated a move from the front of the peloton, a calculated risk, and then joined a group of about nine other riders in a breakaway.

"Sometimes you have to take the race by the horns and it works better" he said. "All the major countries were represented and I thought (the breakaway) would go to the end. It looked promising." As the team's designated sprinter it fell to Holt to stay close to the front and make a sprint to the finish line.

At that point he thought a top five finish was possible, but the French team, a professional group, took control of the front and brought the group back to the peloton with a little more than a kilometer left in the race. From that point it was a huge group who dashed to the finish line. There was only a six-second gap between the winner - Kyoung Ho Park from Korea, who had a time of 2 hours, 51 minutes and 28 seconds - and Holt at 45th place.

"By then I was shot from the energy expended. I fought to hold on the best I could," Holt said. "We did the best race we could and played the best tactics."

Holt, who at 42 was one of the oldest members of the entire U.S. contingent at the games, said he plans to continue representing the Air Force at the highest levels of competition for as long as his mind, body and family allows. At his age Holt said the commitment becomes more difficult to manage.

He is satisfied with the team's effort. A mix of veteran and younger riders give him hope of continuing to field competitive teams in the future. The eight member CISM team consisted of five Airmen and three from the Army.

"For our guys it may be the only chance they get to compete against guys of that caliber. All of them did well and performed to the ability, we were represented in all the early splits. Kudos to the guys we were definitely part of the race."

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