With the massive growth of high school cycling through the recent inception of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), we are seeing a huge boost in the amount of junior cyclists across the country. This is super exciting and promising for the sport to grow in a sustainable manner for the future.
But what happens to all these high school cyclists as they head to college? [Insert superhero music] Collegiate Cycling! Because collegiate cycling gets much less media exposure than high school cycling, many do not even know how it work or exists. The idea was founded initially as the National Collegiate Cycling Association in 1985, and is now under the governance of USA Cycling as USA Cycling Collegiate. Where as NICA currently focuses on just mountain biking, due to the benefit of safety and ease of introduction that mountain biking offers to beginner cyclists, collegiate cycling encompasses road, mountain bike, track and cyclocross — essentially all disciplines of bike racing other than BMX racing. This is really cool because all types of cyclists have a spot in the collegiate program.
A huge aspect of collegiate cycling is the team. Both womens and mens points from races combine to give the score for the school’s ranking. Also ALL categories count towards points for the school (beginner to the elite levels). This is builds some awesome friendships from the lower categories all the way to the fast categories. Collegiate cycling also has a huge range of riders that compete. Many riders discover racing for the first time through collegiate cycling, and learn the ropes of this great “bike racing” lifestyle. Other races are very experienced and vie for the coveted leaders jersey and travel across the nation for National Championship events.
The season is split up so that riders can compete in all disciplines. Road is in the spring, track in the summer, MTB in the fall and cyclocross in the winter. In addition to this each season of racing has a series of races that are hosted by each school. The races are fully promoted by the students themselves! No 3rd person race promoters chew up extra cash and keep the whole program affordable. Also the athletes get to travel to all the different campus locations across their region and enjoy a true “home course”.
Points accumulate for both the team and the individual racers. Top individuals fight for the yellow omnium leader’s jersey. The crazy part about this is that you really have to be a well rounded racer to be on the omnium podium. For example in the MTB season, your points accumulate from XC, Short Track XC, Downhill, Dual Slalom, 4-Cross, and Super D events! Most seasons have a race every weekend with 3-4 races per weekend keeping racers busy.
Especially without the “adult” supervision that governs most of high school cycling, collegiate cycling has as a very relaxed atmosphere. On the race-course and off, all the schools cheer for all their enemy schools. Following racing, students from all the schools hang out, either camping or out in the city depending on the race location. What happens during this hanging out might be too fun to disclose in this article. The only way to find out is to come out and enjoy the collegiate cycling scene!
Well that’s a wrap and hope to see you out on the race course!