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USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships at Purgatory Resort canceled

Fort Lewis College has host chance lost for second year in a row
Fort Lewis College won’t get a chance to race for a mountain bike national championship on home soil at Purgatory Resort this year. The event was canceled Tuesday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wait continues for Fort Lewis College and Purgatory Resort.

For the second year in a row, the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships were scheduled to be held at Purgatory Resort in Durango. In 2019, the event was moved to California because of lingering issues from the 2018 416 Fire that slowed trail building operations at Purgatory Resort. This year, the trails were ready to go, but the rest of the country is not because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That led USA Cycling to cancel the collegiate championships Tuesday. The event had been scheduled for Oct. 15-18.

“We’ve been doomed two years in a row that we were supposed to host,” said FLC cycling director Dave Hagen. “Two years in a row it hasn’t come to fruition. It’s a hard decision. While it might feel a bit early, you could tell the writing was on the wall with many of the conferences around the country not having a mountain bike season.

“Thinking of the health regulations and how it would work, it wouldn’t be a true national championships, especially if not everyone was going to show up.”

Additionally, USA Cycling canceled the collegiate track cycling national championships. The lone hope for the 2020 calendar is cyclocross.

“At this time, the majority of USA Cycling collegiate conferences have canceled their fall racing season, and we are hearing from more and more teams that they will not be able to compete or will have travel restrictions in place,” USA Cycling said in a news release. “Although we are seeing some local and regional events occur, there are additional safety considerations involved with bringing athletes and staff from around the country for the national championships.

“We are currently considering alternatives for Collegiate Cyclocross Nationals, which is traditionally held with the USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals. We have heard from a number of schools, and the majority have stated they will be finishing before the end of November, making a December cyclocross nationals difficult for our teams and athletes. We are working to determine if we can hold a standalone collegiate cyclocross nationals in conjunction with an existing cyclocross race and will provide an update in mid-September.”

Hagen said he is hopeful FLC can host its cyclocross series this fall and that a collegiate national championship could be held sometime before Thanksgiving.

And while there won’t be a national championship event at Purgatory Resort this fall, Hagen said USA Cycling is committed to hosting collegiate mountain bike nationals at Purgatory in 2021 and 2022.

Last year, FLC’s string of two mountain bike national titles in a row was broken by rival Colorado Mesa University.

“Of course, we were looking forward to slapping CMU around a little bit because they are tough,” Hagen said. “It was going to be a battle this year. There are some other super tough schools, too. It would have been awesome to race them this year, but they are already canceling World Cups in Europe.

“Americans have to stay for two months in Europe if they travel over there right now. We have six athletes who could have gone to the world championships this year, but they can’t take two months to spend there. It’s too hard. It’s just hard to be a bike racer right now.”

Hagen said much of the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference calendar for this fall also has been canceled. There is one race in Boulder the Skyhawks will try to attend as well as two in Grand Junction hosted by Colorado Mesa. But Mesa County Public health has placed restrictions on travel from certain Colorado counties for any event held in Mesa County, and La Plata County was not approved. Hagen is hoping a variance to that ordinance would allow the Skyhawks to go compete.

FLC plans to hold some team events at Purgatory and spend more time in the high country to keep the team together during the fall.

“It’s kind of a lost year, but we will do our best to engage our team with the races we do have,” he said “It’s a good year for soul riding and to ride your bike because you love to ride. It’s a year to not be worried about levels, intervals, whatever it is. In the end, maybe it’s better for a lot of our kids who go so hard in their racing all the time.”

USA Cycling said it would provide alternative challenges online for colleges to still maintain some level of competition while distanced from races.

Similarly, the FLC Fall Blaze, the club’s largest fundraiser, will be a virtual event this year.

“It’s going to be any bike, any distance, sign up and support the team,” Hagen said. “There will be a lot of good prizes and giveaways, and we will launch the format for all of it this Friday. It should be a good time.”

jlivingston@@durangoherald.com