10 Best College & University Cycling Teams USA

Posted On September 07, 2022 / Lifestyle

By: Drew Hincapie

College teams racing

Collegiate cycling is a unique sport. It’s not exclusive, expensive, or only for the elite. Any student can compete, and all have the opportunity to discover a love of cycling and excel as a cyclist. In addition to the competition, collegiate cycling promotes community, camaraderie, and strong character. It’s a sport that requires good leadership and team support. If you’re looking to join (or cheer for) a strong cycling team, all 10 of these USA college and university cycling teams deliver the best performance in the nation, each having earned many individual and team national championships titles. 

What is collegiate cycling? 

Collegiate cycling is a competitive team sport with five national disciplines–track, cyclocross, MTB, BMX, and road cycling. Each discipline has its own season and national championship. MTB starts in August and ends in October, cyclocross starts in November and ends in January, track starts in July and ends in September, and road cycling starts in February and ends in May. Though cyclists race individually, every earned position counts toward the entire team’s performance. Even cyclists at the lowest level still contribute to the group’s success.  

Cyclists are categorized by level of experience and performance. In road cycling, for instance, beginners start at category 5 and work their way up by the number of races they complete and their placement at the races. Cyclists are placed in letter groups by category and compete against others in the same category. 

  • A= Pro and categories 1, 2, 3 
  • B=Category 3, 4
  • C=Category 4
  • D=Category 5 or lower  

Points from all categories of collegiate cyclists benefit the entire team. This point system contributes toward a strong and supportive team. 

Club vs. varsity cycling teams 

Cycling programs are divided between club and varsity teams. Club teams are student-led and allow any full-time student to participate in training and racing. Club cyclists have the opportunity to be mentored by coaches and more experienced riders. 

Varsity cycling teams receive additional support, scholarships, and professional guidance. To receive varsity status, teams must be supported by a college or university’s budget, have full-time paid and certified coaches, and participate in at least 1 national championship each year. Varsity teams are divided into Division I or Division II depending on enrollment numbers. Division I schools have over 15,000 students, while Division II schools have fewer. Both divisions compete against each other in all conference races but not in national championships. 

Collegiate cycling conferences

Collegiate cycling is governed by USA Cycling, and teams are divided into one of 11 national cycling conferences. Teams race within their conference in individual and team omnium championships to qualify for nationals. This allows a strong cyclist to race at nationals even if the team doesn’t qualify. At nationals, cyclists from all conferences compete with each other. 

Conferences with a team featured in our top 10 list have a star for the number of teams featured. 

Atlantic Eastern  Inter-Mountain
Midwest * *  North Central North West 
Rocky Mountain * *  South Central  South East * * * * * *
South West Western

 

10 Best College & University Cycling Teams

USA Cycling publishes USA Cycling National Collegiate Varsity Team Rankings every year. Our list of top ten is not just built around the past year’s performance but considers each team’s average rank over the last 5 years. All ten of the best college and university teams listed are varsity and offer scholarships to student cyclists. They’re all academically stellar cycling powerhouses with expert coaching and committed support from their schools. 

1. Marian University

Marian University cycling team
Marian University cycling team. Used with permission.
  • Mascot: Knights 
  • Conference: Midwest
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 2

The Marian cycling team ranked first in the nation in 2019, 2018, and 2017, and they have been awarded USA Cycling Collegiate Varsity Club of the year 11 times. They placed first in the 2022 track national championships. Marian has high performance and academic standards for its varsity cyclists. All cyclists are required to compete in at least 2 disciplines and maintain a minimum 2.75 GPA. Marian University invests in its cyclists. They receive year-round coaching, cycling kits, and travel expenses, as well as access to the 42-acre park with a velodrome, BMX track, cyclocross course, and MTB trails.

2. Colorado Mesa University 

Colorado Mesa cycling team
Colorado Mesa Cycling Team. Photo credit Callum Halloway.
  • Mascot: Mavericks 
  • Conference: Rocky Mountain  
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 1

The Colorado Mesa team has surpassed Marion University in ranking, claiming the number 1 varsity team rank in the 2021-22 and 2020-21 championships. The team climbed to this position from third to second to first place within the last 5 years. The university also placed first in the 2022 MTB, cyclocross, and road national championships. Colorado Mesa encourages community whether in or off the saddle by including community service as a prerequisite to joining the team. Kit and travel expenses are covered by the university. 

3. Fort Lewis College

Fort Lewis College cycling team
Fort Lewis College dual at Nationals. Photo credit Benjamin Brashear.
  • Mascot: Skyhawks 
  • Conference:  Rocky Mountain
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 6

Fort Lewis collegiate cycling receives special focus through independent funding from the rest of the athletic program. The program has trained cycling Olympians, like Todd Wells and Brent Brookwater. As of 2020, Fort Lewis no longer offers BMX or track teams and is concentrating on road, cyclocross, and MTB disciplines. Every year the college hosts the Durango Fall Blaze with road, MTB, and gravel races at 37 and 75 miles.  

4. Lindenwood University 

  • Mascot: Lions 
  • Conference: Midwest 
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 5

Lindenwood University attracts champion cyclists like Hannah Fincap, an Xterra World Champion and Pro Clif Cycling Team member. The program was founded in 2007 and is now a top contender in all 5 disciplines. Lindenwood’s cycling program is fully funded and scholarship-based, and the university is situated near a local velodrome, bike trails, and a BMX track. 

5. SCAD Atlanta

SCAD Atlanta Spring Ride Jackson Bridge, ATL
SCAD Atlanta – Spring Ride. Photography by Justin Chan. Used with permission.
  • Mascot: Bees 
  • Conference: South East 
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 4

According to their collegiate cycling director, the SCAD cycling team is “here to show the world they’re about more than just art.” The unique artist-athletes on SCAD’s varsity team are elite cyclists that compete in track, MTB, cyclocross, and road disciplines. The program has experienced remarkable success since its start in 2016. Since its founding, SCAD Atlanta has earned 13 national championship titles. 

6. Milligan University 

Milligan University Cycling Team
Milligan University Cycling Team. Photo credit Weldon Weaver.
  • Mascot: Buffaloes 
  • Conference: South East 
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 7

Milligan University has a very strong women’s cycling team. It is home to olympian Megan Jastrab who won bronze in the Tokyo Olympics and has won 6 championship titles for Milligan. The University has won 5 national championships and 3 podiums in the 2022 national championships. 

7. Lindsey Wilson College

Lindsey Wilson College - Emily Harris, placed 4th in Nationals.
Lindsey Wilson College – Emily Harris. Emily placed 4th in the dual slalom at nationals last year. Photo used with permission.
  • Mascot: Blue Raiders
  • Conference: South East
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 3

The Lindsey Wilson collegiate cycling team is strong on BMX and mountain bikes and in the classroom. In 2021, 12 cyclists were named to USA Cycling’s Academic All-Stars List, and the team claimed the BMX national championship title in 2022. Each year the college hosts the Lindsey Wilson Mountain Bike Showdown at the college’s own cycling complex. 

8. Brevard College

  • Mascot: Tornadoes 
  • Conference: South East 
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 10

Brevard College is surrounded by beautiful mountains, so it’s no wonder the college excels in mountain biking. The Brevard cycling team is also the first to launch gravel racing as a discipline. Academics are prioritized in the Brevard collegiate cycling program, and members of its team have made the Academic All-Stars and Academic All-Conference lists. 

9. Lees-McRae College

Lees-McRae College cycling team
Lees-McRae College Cycling Team. Photo used with permission.
  • Mascot: Bobcats 
  • Conference: South East 
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 9

Lees-McRae has done a lot to prove its dedication to the sport of cycling. The school has dedicated itself to improving its infrastructure to make cycling more accessible. School efforts have led to Lees-McRae earning the status of Gold Bicycle University by the League of American Cyclists. Lees-McRae is the only school on our list to have received this honor. The University also created a minor in Cycling Studies to encourage students to preserve cycling through advocacy, design, or development opportunities. 

10. SCAD Savannah

SCAD Savannah Men's and Women's Cycling Team
SCAD Savannah Men’s and Women’s Cycling Team. Photography Courtesy of SCAD.
  • Mascot: Bee
  • Conference: South East 
  • 2022 National Collegiate Varsity Ranking: 8

SCAD Savannah has climbed to the top 10 varsity ranking list within the last few years. In the 2022 Collegiate Road Nationals, the men’s team placed 7th and the women’s team placed 9th. The college is innovatively investing in cycling. Cars are no longer allowed on campus, so the SCAD Bike Share program simplifies bike transportation for students by providing them with an app to use to borrow a bike using the SCAD ID. The first 4 hours of cycling are free to students, and a free bike light is provided for additional safety. 

No matter the cycling discipline, the Hincapie team can help your team look and perform their best with a custom collegiate kit designed and tested by pro cyclists. 

Our cycling training plan for beginners or our guide to increasing cycling power can help you train for better performance at your next race or at one of the 20 best Gran Fondos in the USA.

 

Post feature image courtesy of Lees-McRae College.

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