The 2019-20 collegiate cycling season is over.
Fort Lewis College had already made the decision to cancel the Squawker Road Classic event scheduled April 25-26 in Durango because of COVID-19. Now, the new coronavirus has canceled the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships that were scheduled for May 8-10 in Augusta, Georgia.
“The writing was on the wall,” said FLC cycling director Dave Hagen. “The whole (Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference) was essentially canceled, so we really had no way to qualify, train or choose a team to represent us at nationals. That selection process based on results is something we have to be able to do.”
The collegiate cancellation also included the Para-cycling Road Championships scheduled for May 6-7 in Augusta. The spring BMX national championships scheduled for last weekend had already been canceled.
“Given the uncertainty with regard to extended school closures, travel restrictions and the cancellations impacting the collegiate road season, we made the difficult decision to cancel the event for this year,” USA Cycling Chief of Racing and Events said in a news release Tuesday.
Fort Lewis College senior Charlotte Backus was anticipating the news, but it didn’t ease the sting.
“It’s sad for us all, especially the seniors,” Backus said. “As much as it sucks to be a senior and to not have a last semester with Fort Lewis College, the Skyhawks will always be part of me. They helped me grow into the athlete I am today.”
Last season, the FLC team finished fourth at road nationals a year after a third-place result. The Skyhawks aimed to return with a loaded team, especially on the women’s side with so much camaraderie and experience, with the goal of winning the national title.
“We definitely had unfinished business,” Backus said. “We were really close with our rivals and ready to kick it off another year with strong riders and great attitudes. But the Skyhawks legacy will continue. We will be strong through it together. I know they are always going to be there to help me and I’ll always do whatever I can to help them, regardless.”
Liz Kollar the USA Cycling Director of Youth and Collegiate Development, said a postponement and various alternatives were discussed but the decision to cancel was necessary.
FLC senior Tristen Musselman had hoped the Skyhawks’ women’s team time trial could improve on a bronze last year and go for gold in 2020. Now, she has raced her final event in a Skyhawks uniform.
“At this point, would we even want to go to nationals if we didn’t have practice together as a team? Having a collegiate team go to nationals with no practice or races, there would be more crashes even than last year, and there were a lot of crashes last year,” Musselman said. “It was a major bummer to have the Squawker canceled because our families come to that one. Being my senior year, I was looking forward to that, but it’s the right call.
“We can’t be too upset because this situation is happening to everyone around the world. The biggest thing, though, is not being able to hang out and ride together in group rides. They are canceled for valid reasons, but it is affecting us more not being able to hang out with our best friends than it is not to race.”
USA Cycling regularly schedules cities to host nationals events for consecutive years. Augusta was the site of the 2019 USA Collegiate Road National Championships, and the sport’s governing body announced Augusta would remain the host for the 2021 championships now scheduled for May 7-9.
Backus and Musselman won’t race in 2021, but they are committed to supporting the Skyhawks for life.
“Without FLC cycling, I wouldn’t have found a family here in Durango,” Musselman said. “It’s kind of hard to think we’re never going to go stay in a hotel with the girls again and experience those life-building times. But I’m lucky that I’m going to stay in Durango a couple more years and get to hang with the team and coaches, but it’s not the same for everyone on the team. Shoutout to all the coaches for doing the best they can with the situation and our whole cycling community. It’s hard for everyone.”
Now, the hardest thing to do is for the FLC cycling family to find some kind of closure during a time in which group gathering are prohibited.
“I really feel for our seniors because we had some great leadership,” Hagen said. “Everyone was really working together, and I think we had a chance to do really well with the team we had. Everyone sure looks up to our seniors who were helping them grow. I hope there is a time where we can meet up for a bike ride, even if it’s just me and those seniors who have meant a lot to our program.”