Let the games begin

Next weekend, Fort Lewis College mountain bikers are going to party like it’s 1990. From Oct. 14-17, the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships descend, quite literally, on Purgatory, home to the fabled 1990 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. 

“We are excited to bring collegiate athletes from all over the country to see what is so special about Durango, Purgatory and the community,” Dave Hagen, director of cycling operations at FLC and technical director for the event, said. 

FLC cyclists will be riding for their 25th team title but will have stiff competition from Colorado Mesa University, Indiana’s Marian University, and Brevard and Lees-McRae colleges, both from North Carolina.

Racing begins Thurs., Oct. 14, with Dual Slalom qualifiers. Friday will be a full day of action with cross-country racing followed by Dual Slalom finals. Downhill seedings and Short Track will take place Saturday, and racing will conclude Sunday with Downhill finals and the ultimate decider, the Team Relay. 

Hagen said racers will be riding on “spruced-up versions” of the courses at Purgatory, including the 1990 Worlds as well as the World Cup Downhill course from 2001. “The courses will be very challenging as the National Championship course should be,” he said. The Friday Cross-Country race, which will take place on the 1990 Worlds course that local legend Ned Overend won, is 5.2 miles in length and climbs 1,100 feet per lap. Sunday’s Downhill will be on the 2001 World Cup course, which Hagen said is still revered in the gravity world for its “steep and rowdy” lines.

In addition, there will be great spectating opportunities, with the majority of the action viewable from the base area, he said.

This is the third time the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals have been planned in Durango. They were planned in 2019, which had to be cancelled due to fires, and 2020, which were canceled due to COVID. 

FLC Cycling has had a great season thus far, Hagen said, but only the top female and male riders will represent the Skyhawks on race weekend. Female downhiller Fiona Dougherty has been on fire for the Skyhawks and will have strong backup with teammates McKenna Merten, Kaia Jensen and Barb Edwards. For the men’s downhill, Will Farmer and Cole Fiene have won downhill races this year and are considered top contenders. Guy Leshem and Durango native Cobe Freeburn will anchor the men’s Cross-Country team with Micheala Thompson, Madelyn Roberson, Natalie Quinn, and Durango native Ruth Holcomb rounding out the women’s cross-country field.

“It’s really exciting to race at home,” Holcomb said. “To be on a home course with home fans is super special. The course has a lot of history, and it’s one of the hardest courses we’ll race this season. It has a super steep climb and feels like a level up from the other courses we’ve been on this fall.”

Volunteers are still needed for the event. To sing up, go to: tinyurl.com/3wc32xax. 

You can follow all the action @USACycling and #CollNats.

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