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Cycling team celebrates 20th anniversary with shot at another #1 season

Fort Lewis College's Cycling team boasts more than 100 members.

Today's FLC Cycling Team boasts more than 100 members.

As the Fort Lewis College Cycling team heads to Boulder for the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships this weekend, they'll be competing in the first race of their 20th anniversary year.

And come May, they hope to celebrate that milestone in an appropriate manner: with another #1 season.

At the nationals, January 8 - 12, FLC aims to boost its shot at earning a fifth #1 Division I end-of-season ranking, adding another memorable year to the team's two decades of cycling excellence. Going into this weekend's competition, Skyhawks Cycling is tied for the #1 position for omnium title for the '13 - '14 season. <<Follow FLC at the cyclocross nationals through their cycling blog.>>

FLC Cycling has been a powerhouse in collegiate cycling since its founding in 1994. That year, the new team -- wearing t-shirts donated by the Durango Diner, where club members would gather before their morning training rides, since they didn't have FLC racing jerseys yet -- won their first-ever collegiate mountain bike national championship title.
Fort Lewis College's National Championship 1994 Mountain Biking team
Since then, the cycling world has come to know FLC Cycling – and the team's jerseys. That's because FLC Cycling has continued its roll, winning national championships 19 more times in mountain biking, cyclocross, and road racing -- including being crowned Mountain Biking National Champions again last October. FLC Cycling has also finished as the #1 in the nation in USA Cycling's Division I in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Bicycling-crazy Durango, Colorado – where else would a national powerhouse of Division I collegiate cycling rise? To have world-class riders, you need world-class places to ride. Which is why it's no surprise that a team from Durango would excel. A "gold"-rated Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, Durango is surrounded by dozens of legendary mountain bike and road rides across the region's mountains, deserts, and valleys. The community has produced several professional and amateur national champions, as well as world-class and Olympic riders.

For Durango, it really all began in 1895, when the Durango Wheel Club brought cyclists together to push for better roads. Nearly 120 years later, the Wheel Club is still a social cycling club, sponsoring rides and hosting competitions, including Durango's premiere cycling event, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. Today, after more than forty years, the event attracts 2,500 riders, racing the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad's steam train over the San Juans to the mining town of Silverton.

Cycling at FLC goes way back, too. In the 1960s and '70s, the FLC ski team would organize informal off-season training rides that roamed the mountainous southwestern Colorado countryside. In the 1980s, some student aficionados of the then-new sport of mountain biking formed an intramural mountain bike race program. An on-campus race course was created, and a three-event race was held that included a cross-country race, hill climb, and road race. The champions were awarded pizzas.

The 1990s, though, is when the legacy of champions that people think of when they think of Fort Lewis College Cycling was born. The decade opened with Durango hosting the first-ever professional mountain biking World Bicycle Championship, held at Purgatory Ski Area. That fever spread to FLC, where in 1993, a dozen students created a loosely formed FLC cycling club.

In 1994, the first official FLC Cycling team was born when the FLC student body voted to allow activity fees to support the Cycling Club. That year, in its first intercollegiate competition as a club sport, the new team won the inaugural National Collegiate Cycling Association mountain biking national championships in Castaic Lake, California, defeating perennial national cycling powerhouses like the University of Colorado, Stanford, and Cal Poly.

It's worth pointing out that as a club sport, anyone with a bike, a helmet, and a love of riding can participate in the FLC Cycling experience – which is one of friendship and camaraderie as much as training and competition. Unlike professional racing, it's the nature of collegiate cycling that each person rides to earn points for the whole team rather than just for themselves. It's that unique spirit that forges deeper and lasting connections among collegiate cyclists that last well after their college riding days are over.

At Fort Lewis College, that cycling community spirit has also shaped a championship cycling program that today is the gold standard in collegiate cycling.
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