Last week I wrapped up a full season as coach of the University of Colorado Boulder Cycling Team. I have coached the team in an expanding capacity over the last 3 years. 2014/15 was the first year that I managed all disciplines (with the exception of BMX) for a complete academic year. As a result I have had contact with the various disciplines, both men and women, and the various categories in which the student-athletes compete.
The University of Colorado Boulder has over 120 student-athletes compete during a typical academic year. Men and women compete in 3 different categories and in 4 disciplines (Track, MTB, CX, and Road) over approximately 20 competition weeks. There is a wide range of experience and fitness with many students trying the sport for the first time. These new cyclists trained, traveled, and competed shoulder-to-shoulder with seasoned competitors who have represented the USA at World Championship events. This is a unique environment in that the full spectrum of competitors rarely interact so closely with each other.
In addition to providing an enriching experience for students, I believe collegiate cycling can be a legitimate development pathway to the national and international professional ranks. We have a number of competitors that have represented in the USA in World Championships in the last 12 months. These athletes have a promising start to a professional career on the bike. Unfortunately, they are often forced to choose between committing to racing the collegiate calendar or the national calendar. Many athletes must even withdraw from school to engage in the level of competition they feel is necessary to advance their careers. This is unfortunate, and I think with some vision, planning, and effort, ultimately unnecessary.
Can collegiate cycling develop in such a way to keep student-athletes in school while still providing top-level competition? This has been achieved for football, basketball, baseball and other varsity sports, why not cycling?
The next several posts will address various aspects of collegiate cycling and hopefully encourage increased attention and support of the program from the various stakeholders.