Vail Valley cyclist Colby Lange on track for 2020 Olympics | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley cyclist Colby Lange on track for 2020 Olympics

Vail native Colby Lange leads a team of riders around a track as coach Clay Worthington watches. Lange, 20, is part of the team which set a new national record in the team pursuit at the Pan American Championships in 2018, and is hoping to make it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Zac Williams | Special to the Daily

Vail native Colby Lange is getting ready to head down to Peru for 2019 Pan American Games, which start July 26. 

It’s an unofficial stop on the journey to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he hopes to compete as a track cyclist in the team pursuit. 

In the group of seven cyclists on the national team, Lange is one of three who are regular starters at every big event. 

The team won gold at the Pan American Championships last year, making history as the first American Team Pursuit squad to break four minutes.

They went on to notch the best men’s World Cup team pursuit finish in at least a decade in January, finishing second in Hong Kong in January. 

To make it to the Olympics, they’ll need to have a top-eight ranking at the conclusion of the 2020 World Championships in Germany, Feb. 26 to March 1.  

“That’s the last race of the cycling season, so we’ll know in March,” Lange said. 

Up until then, “Everything I do now is around going,” he said.

That means no skiing, and for a kid who grew up in Vail ski racing, that part has been hard. 

“I’ve only skied once in the last two years, which is pretty wild considering I used to ski 200-plus days a year.” Lange said.

Tough choice

The first year that Lange made the national team in cycling, he also made the U.S. Ski Team as a giant slalom racer. He chose cycling and hasn’t looked back — except on the occasional powder day. 

“My friends were telling me this last season was awesome,” he said. 

Now a national record holder in team pursuit, the 20-year-old Singletree resident is hoping for a long carer in the sport as the youngest member of the record-holding team.

“I went all in for cycling for like three months, and in that time period I made the national team and won junior nationals,” he said. “And doors just started opening for me.”

Track star

During his time as a ski racer, cycling was a tool to stay in shape and cross-train when Lange couldn’t get on snow. Lange’s mom remembers taking him to the track when he was in elementary school. 

“We were in down Colorado Springs for a soccer game, and it was an open-air track, and we were watching the velodrome and saying, ‘This is insane,’ and (Colby’s father) looked down at him and said, ‘One day you’ll be doing this,'” said Lauren Lange, Colby’s mother. 

Colby said that after discovering competitive cycling through local races in Eagle County, the track shrunk the sport down a bit for him, which he thought could be advantageous — for skiing.  

“My dad came up with the idea of trying the track, and it made a lot of sense — the efforts were shorter, more explosive — so it’d probably be even better training for skiing,” Lange said. “I had no intention of racing, ever, on the track. But I went down (to Boulder), got certified, really enjoyed riding the track, did end up racing, got noticed that way, got invited to national team camp, did that, and from there on it was pretty clear that this could be something I could do if I went all in.”

In the team pursuit, the U.S. is not currently within that top-eight spot it will need to make the Olympics, but it’s close. 

Lange said they will have a better idea of where they stand in that environment after the Pan American Games which, while they’re not part of the ranking system which will determine the Olympics, are a once-every-four-years event that has a similar feel to the Olympics. 

“It’s an honor just to be a part of the Pan American Games,” Lange said. “I’m really excited for it.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. program is excited about Lange and the Team USA’s chances in the team pursuit.

“We have a strong team of riders,” said Jeff Pierce, USA Cycling director of elite athletics. “We’ve seen this team reach new milestones and have many top performances this track season, and we’re excited to carry that same energy … as we build towards Tokyo 2020.”