The crime has left athletes, family and friends grieving in Austin, in Wilson’s native Vermont, and across the country on the national bike racing scene.
“Austin is a small town and the cycling community is a small, tight-knit world within that,” said Colm Whelan, a local cyclist. “People are devastated.”
On Saturday at The Meteor, a bike shop and hangout that serves as the center of Austin’s cycling scene, women and men on carbon-fiber bikes arrived after long rides through the surrounding hills. Most weekends, local cyclists said, Meteor’s beer garden becomes the venue for an endorphin-fueled post-ride party.
But lately, since Wilson’s murder, local cyclist Collin Shaughnessy said as he finished a post-ride meal, the mood has been “solemn.”
Inside the store, two elite runners wearing their team’s fluorescent-colored uniform refused to speak for a long time. “We’re too close to that,” said one.
Another local cyclist, who likes Many others He did not want to be identified, saying he had shared post-ride beers with Armstrong, a competitive amateur cyclist, at The Meteor several times and could not explain how it could be linked to a murder.
“She seemed normal, calm, really smart,” he said.
On the day of the murder, Armstrong stopped at The Meteor, which sponsors Strickland, at the start of a morning ride, according to a GPS route uploaded to the cycling social media site Strava. Twelve hours later, a black Jeep with a bike rack that matched the appearance of Armstrong’s vehicle was in the vicinity of the East Austin apartment where Wilson, who lived in California, was staying before a weekend race in Hico. , Texas, according to a report. timeline of the day’s events established by a Globe review of police records. Austin police believe Armstrong was sitting in the driver’s seat of the Jeep.
Around 8:30 p.m., Strickland, driving his BMW motorcycle, dropped Wilson off after swimming and dining at a local burger joint. At 8:36, Strickland texted Armstrong: “Hey! You are out? I went to leave some flowers for [a friend] at his son’s house up north and my phone died,” he wrote, according to a police affidavit.
At 8:37 a.m., the black Jeep pulled up to the apartment, according to security camera footage described in police records. Just over an hour later, a neighbor, Jonathan Horstmann, heard sirens and approached one of the police officers who were congregating near the apartment.
“It’s a heinous crime scene. Something nasty happened back there,” the officer told him, according to a text message Horstmann sent to a friend immediately after the exchange.
Information about the murder spread through the Austin cycling community in waves. First came the shock that Wilson was dead. Word then spread that Armstrong and Strickland were connected to the case. According to police interviews with Strickland and a friend of Wilson’s, Strickland and Wilson had a romantic relationship last fall when Strickland and Armstrong briefly separated.
Strickland has not been charged with any crime.
Numerous cyclists recounted finding their friends stunned when bits of information surfaced. Whelan stopped at a local store the day news broke that an arrest warrant had been issued for Armstrong. An employee asked if she had heard the news and “she was really surprised,” he said.
An Austin bicycle mechanic, who said he was a friend of Strickland and the woman who was lodging Wilson and found his body, said the killing is “deeply affecting the community.”
Strickland, he said, was a “mainstay” of the cycling scene who “has always been very open and supportive of people coming into the community.”
It is an assessment echoed by many. “A lot of elite racers can be really pretentious,” said a local racer, “but Colin is always friendly.”
The sport that made Strickland and Wilson stars, gravel racing, defines itself in contrast to the exclusive, tradition-bound, performance-enhancing, drug-tainted world of European road racing. Wilson and Strickland were the perfect ambassadors.
A native of East Burke, Vt., Wilson grew up mountain biking before competing in skiing at Dartmouth. Recently, she had become a dominant gravel racer (she had just quit her job at the Specialized bike company to race full-time), winning most of the races she entered this year, sometimes by margins. massive.
But he dominated with a smile on his face and seemed to view his fellow gravel pros more as friends than rivals.
Wilson was “a very special lady,” road racing icon Lance Armstrong said on his podcast the weekend after her death. (Kaitlin Armstrong and Lance Armstrong are not related.)
Strickland was one of the first pros to break out on gravel. In 2019, after a varied career racing motorcycles and single-speed bikes, he won the world’s premier gravel event, Unbound Kansas, a punishing 200-mile run through the Midwest prairie in commanding fashion.
The high-profile victory earned him a contract offer from a leading team on the prestigious European road racing circuit. But he turned it down to continue competing on gravel in the United States.
He viewed Wilson as a talent with virtually limitless potential. She could be “our Marianne Vos”, she recently told a friend of hers, comparing her to a Dutch road racing superstar. She might have been the most talented female cyclist in the world, she told Austin police in an interview after Wilson’s murder.
Strickland has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Fern Palomo, a mechanic for Cycleeast in East Austin, said she hopes “people don’t think differently” of Strickland now that his connection to the case is widely known. But there are fissures within the community on the Strickland issue.
“He had a lot of fault, besides Kaitlin,” said a local runner. Another Austin-based broker criticized Strickland’s friends for portraying themselves as Wilson supporters. “If you’re attached to Strickland and you’re writing ‘I Ride for Mo’ in your race number,” as many did at the weekend’s races, “you’re full of it,” he said.
After Wilson’s death was publicly announced on May 13, his family urged competitors to go ahead with the following day’s Gravel Locos race, which Wilson had been the favorite to win.
“We know that Moriah would want the event to continue, for his compatriots to test his limits, just as he would have stood alongside his friends on the race track,” the family said in a statement.
The first few miles of the race, which the riders slowly covered as a group, were a somber affair. Some runners sobbed as they pedaled. Others placed a comforting hand on the back of their competitors.
The winner of a bicycle race usually breaks the tape with his hands thrown into the air. But when Jasper Ockeloen crossed the finish line seven hours later, he held his helmet on his hip and bowed his head.
“A normal victory salute,” she wrote in an Instagram post, “was inappropriate on a day like this.”
Mike Damiano can be reached at [email protected]