Former professional cyclist Jacquelyn Crowell died on Wednesday, April 25, following a five-year battle with cancer. She turned 30 in February.
Doctors diagnosed Crowell with stage 4 glioblastoma, a rare malignant brain tumour, in October of 2013. She underwent surgery to remove a tumour at the WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia, where she also started cancer treatments.
Crowell experienced initial symptoms of temporary paralysis on the right side of her body while she was training with USA Cycling's team pursuit program in Colorado Springs. She was training for a spot on the Olympic team, and she made one of the final cuts to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
She immediately returned to her home in Georgia, where she suffered a brain haemorrhage. It was a subsequent MRI that first discovered a tumour. Doctors removed the tumour three days later.
While undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University, Crowell also spent time at physical therapy sessions to build strength and regain use of the right side of her body. A scan in December of that year came back clear.
Crowell continued riding her bike and coaching athletes through 2014, and although she took a step back from racing, she competed in the Tour of California Women's Invitational Time Trial in 2015 in an Amgen Breakaway from Cancer skinsuit.
"Jackie Crowell has shown us the true meaning of passion, perseverance and courage throughout her life’s journey," said the Tour of California organisers. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends and those who have been graced with her presence. She will be missed, but never forgotten."
During her last years, Crowell worked part-time at the Dick Lane Velodrome, where she coached children on how to ride bikes.
In one of many memorable moments, in May of 2014, she gave a speech about her mindset and cancer prognosis, in what she called her "race for life". In what were some of her final public words, Crowell said, "What I ask of you, is that you take advantage of your life and your health, and do the best to enjoy each moment you have."
Crowell - the cyclist and teammate
Crowell graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Mechanical Engineering before starting her bike racing career.
She signed her first professional contract with Team Type 1 in 2009 and stayed with the team through 2011. She then joined Exergy-Twenty16 for two seasons, 2012 and 2013. In October of 2013, two weeks before her diagnosis, Crowell signed a contract to race with UnitedHealthcare for the 2014 season. She joined the team for a pre-season training camp in Arizona.
Later that spring, her teammate Alison Powers won the time trial and road race titles at the USA Cycling Professional Road Championships, and in doing so won a one-year lease on a brand new car from the event's sponsor, Volkswagen. Powers, and the team, gifted the car to Crowell.
"To win a car for Jackie is a dream come true," Powers said at the time. "This is Jackie Crowell's car because she's such an amazing teammate and she's not able to be here with us. Jackie, thanks for being awesome; we miss you."
During her successful career, Crowell won the US amateur national championships five times and titles in the junior 13-14 individual time trial in 2003. On her rise through elite women's cycling, she was third at Tour de Toona Criterium and fourth at Athens Twilight Criterium. She first competed at the Tour of California in 2010.
In 2011, Crowell spent time racing overseas at the Tour of Qatar, Energiewacht Tour, Drentse 8, Ronde van Drenthe, where she finished 20th, Omloop Van Borsele, Gracia-Orlova and Tour of Chongming Island.
She proved her strength in European racing later that summer by placing third in the opening stage of Tour de Bretagne Féminin and finishing fourth overall. The following year, she finished 13th overall at the Exergy Tour and then placed seventh in the prologue at the Route de France.
In 2013, Crowell won a stage and the overall at the Sea Otter Classic, along with wins at the Del Ray Beach Criterium and Noda Grand Prix Criterium, and second at Tulsa Tough stages 1 and 2, and overall. She also competed in select events overseas but returned to the US to finish fifth in the national championships road race and sixth in the time trial.
"She made a huge impact on the cycling community as well as the fight to cure cancer," USA Cycling posted on its social media channels Wednesday. "She will be greatly missed and we send our deepest sympathies to her friends, family and teammates."
Cyclingnews would like to extend its deep condolences to Crowell's family and friends.
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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