RaceMill Collegiate: USA Cycling Nationals - Fort Lewis College Skyhawks

Team Director Dave Hagen Tells Us Why They're Still the Team to Beat

If you only follow mainstream college sports, you probably have never heard of Fort Lewis College.  Even if you keep an eye on some of the "non-revenue" sports like Swimming or Soccer, you still probably are saying to yourself “Fort what?”  If this describes you and you call yourself a cycling fan, you should be ashamed of yourself - it’s time to start paying attention to Fort Lewis College!  This NCAA Division II school located in Durango, Colorado, has 21 Collegiate National Cycling Championships to its name - second only to Marian University’s 29 Championships.  Heading into this weekend’s USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals, they are the defending Men’s Road Race and Team Time Trial Champions.  Dave Hagen, Team Director, gave us the low down on what makes this top ranked program tick, and why they are the team to beat.

RM: Fort Lewis is a perennial favorite and described as the “Gold Standard” in Collegiate Cycling.  Is the team ready to defend that reputation at this year’s nationals in Asheville?
DH: We have had a great conference season in the build up to Nationals. We are defending Men's Road Race and Team Time Trial champions and are ready to keep those in our house. The lady Skyhawks have had a nice progression in the build up to Nats and will be firing on all cylinders.  The TTTs are the only races that we have total control over so the Men's and Women's have put in quite a few hours in becoming as efficient as possible and know both teams will be in the mix for the win.

RM: Who are your biggest rivals in the sport?
DH: On a National level for Road Racing it is Marian University, CU, Lee's McRae, UC Davis and Lindenwood. Because CU is in our conference we race them every weekend and have great battles.

RM: How does this squad compare to teams in the past? How many racers are going, what are your strengths?
DH: The team is actually quite young this year with only one Senior, but that does not mean we are short on experience. We have 7 men and 5 women that were chosen to our Nationals team. In selecting the team one of the factors was the courses for Nationals. I feel our strengths are the Road Race and Team Time Trial but feel we have ringers in the Criterium also. 

RM: Who do you expect to be the toughest teams and individuals racing in Asheville?
DH: Our main rivals will be the toughest teams. It is always hard to tell who the toughest individuals will be because a lot of times some very talented riders are on smaller collegiate teams and they can sneak up on you. The strongest teams have some of the strongest individuals so any of our main rivals have tough individuals.

RM: Do you feel the sport of College Cycling is growing with the rise in road cycling in the US?  
DH: It seems like it is growing but that is a better question for the folks at USA Cycling. It seems like the biggest growth potential for collegiate cycling are the NICA associated HS MTB leagues spreading all over the country. This is getting many kids hooked to the fun of cycling competition in a team environment that is quite similar to collegiate cycling. 

RM: Does being in one of the most scenic parts of the country make it easier to recruit athletes to join the team?  Tell us what you like about Durango.
DH: The FLC Cycling team would not be in existence if it weren't for the great cycling community that Durango is. Hundreds of miles of trails and great roads right out of Durango are definitely one of our selling points when we talk to recruits. We also bank on the scenery a bit as the college sits on a mesa overlooking Durango with unobstructed views of the La Plata Mountains to the west.

RM: Have there been any stand out moments of the season that have helped inspire the team this year? 
DH: There are a couple things – the progression of the women's team from hanging on for dear life at the beginning of the season to being animators of races at the end of the season and the execution of the Mens criterium race plan where the team gathered with 2 to go and did an impressive lead out for our sprinter.

RM: Do you have a team mantra or rallying cry?
DH: Either “Yipyah” or “Squawk.”

RM: How do you think the venue in Asheville fits the team compared to your base in Colorado?
DH: It seems quite comparable as it is river valley / hilly terrain much like it is in Durango.

RM: Which event do your athletes most look forward to?  
DH: I think it is the Team Time Trial because we work on it so much and it creates a unique bond amongst the riders.

RM: Do you have a favorite place to take the team to train?  Do you do a team training camp in a special location?
DH: Any direction out of Durango is a good place to train as there is quite a variety of terrain to suit whatever training goals there are. No we don't go anywhere to do a training camp.

RM: Do you have any sponsors or special people you would like to thank?
DH: We need to thank Fort Lewis College for the substantial support they give the team. The team sponsors, Champion Systems, Seebook Technology, Cascade Bike Trainers, WD 40 Bike and the Durango Performance Center do so much for us also, they all deserve a big shout out. 

RM: Any last thoughts?
DH: Student/Cyclists from any program inspire me as they have a solid set of goals with being bike races and also looking to their future by getting an education. It is amazing to see all the individual growth over the course of 4-5 years.

RM: Thanks Dave and Go Skyhawks!

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