Mavericks modeling cycling program after Fort Lewis

Look at Fort Lewis College’s cycling program, and Rick Crawford says you see the future of Colorado Mesa University’s cycling program.

Fort Lewis, although Division II in NCAA athletics, has a nationally dominant Division I cycling team — thanks to Crawford, who coached there for eight years, beginning in 2001, but he took the Colorado Mesa job in 2009.

The Skyhawks have won 18 USA National Cycling Championships in different disciplines since 2001. Fort Lewis also sits atop the Division I Collegiate USA Cycling polls.

It’s a standard Crawford and the Mavericks’ cycling team are striving to attain, and their prowess was on display Saturday at the Maverick Mountain Bike Championships, which double as the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships.

Saturday’s events were cross country and dual slalom. Today, the meet wraps up with short-track racing, beginning at 
8:50 a.m. in the North Fruita desert near the end of 18 Road.

But Colorado Mesa, currently ranked No. 11 in Division II, is more concerned about the upcoming USA Cycling Collegiate National Final.

“We’re not so much worried about this race as we are about having a strong showing at nationals,” Crawford said. “I will also say that we’re really sighting through D-II and are looking at Fort Lewis. They definitely have a target on their back. I intend to do the same thing I did at Fort Lewis and bring CMU to national prominence.”

Crawford has more than 30 years of college and professional coaching experience, including a stint on the World Pro Tour. His experience, along with professional connections, were what brought sophomore Morgan Ryan from Ventura, Calif., to Grand Junction. Ryan hadn’t known CMU existed before talking to Crawford, but he hasn’t regretted the trip.

Ryan is one of the top cyclists in collegiate cycling and was the top Division II finisher — he was sixth overall behind five Fort Lewis races — in the men’s “A” cross country race Saturday.

“He reached out to me last year and asked if I wanted to go to school. (Crawford) said CMU had a great engineering program and said there was great riding out here,” Ryan said. “All of those things are definitely true.”

Alexis Skarda won the women’s “A” division among Division II riders in the cross country race. The former track and cross country running standout lapped a few of the men’s racers on the second lap of the 21-mile track.

“She has a future with us,” Crawford said. “She’s an incredible athlete and could be doing this for a very long time.”


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