Special Cyclocross Report: Changes to the Domestic Landscape

2010 NACT Round 8 - CX Landscape

Photo by Natalia Boltukhova, Pedal Power Photography, 2010

If you’re a fan of domestic cyclocross, you’ve recently become aware of a “new” rule that affects all UCI races and series. Actually, it’s a rule the UCI has had for a while, but never enforced—until now. Well, it’s only been about a week and already the backlash has been felt far and wide, causing rifts between US promoters and the UCI as well as US promoters and other US promoters. Without speculating as to why the rule is suddenly being enforced, let’s take a look at how its reemergence will change the landscape of the 2011-2012 North American calendar.  But first, allow me to explain the “new” rule.

It’s actually rather simple: the rule states that all UCI races—no matter the category (Cat. 1 or Cat. 2)—must be part of a UCI-sanctioned series [see: The Race Before the Race for an explanation as to the importance UCI status in cyclocross racing]. The series must have a general classification, a leader’s jersey, and no more than eight races. As of right now, there is no minimum for UCI events in a series, but the UCI must approve each series—so you can bet your euros that a promoter looking to put on a weekend series of two races will be denied.

As of right now, the USGP is the only UCI-approved series in North America for the 2011-2012 season. After lengthy discussions with the UCI, the NACT and Verge NECCS have been denied sanctioning by the UCI. These series, like others, contained several UCI events and several non-UCI events, thus violating the not-new, but previously un-enforced rule. It also appears that the MAC, Surf City, and Ohio series will be denied UCI sanctioning in their current structure as well. Clearly, changes are in store.  But what and how?

We know the NECCS will still exist as a 15-race series from September to December in New England. However, it will not feature an elite men’s or women’s category. Instead, the eight-race, UCI-sanctioned, New England Professional Cyclocross Series will offer elite men’s and women’s races—perhaps at places and times similar to NECCS events? As of right now, most of those weekends will offer elite racing (Cat. 1 events) on one day (most likely Saturday), while the NECCS will provide racing on both Saturday and Sunday.

Initial discussions among MAC promoters and organizers appear to follow a similar pattern to that of the NECCS. This year the MAC offered eleven races, seven of which were UCI-sanctioned. Under that new plan, the MAC would include only amateur races, while a parallel series would offer the elite events.

After being flat-out rejected by the UCI, it is understandable that NACT organizers, Myles Romanow and Brook Watts, are very upset. Rumor has it they are also displeased with the USGP and are going to form a new series to directly compete with the USGP. As a result, the NACT will have to reform and restructure. Star Crossed and the Rad Racing GP are two iconic cross races in the Northwest that could continue as the opening round for the new series. In addition, the traditional closing round in New York (the Super Cross Cup) could return to offer a pair of UCI events. The two Colorado races could stay as well.  Making things even more interesting, USA Cycling (USAC) is prepared to establish an NRC-style cross series (a season-long domestic series sanctioned and owned by USA Cycling).

As of right now, Cross Vegas, Krosstober-fest Weekend, Cincinnati 3-day, Ellison Park Cross, Dam Cross Weekend, the North Carolina GP, Jingle Cross Rock, and the Kingsport Cup all are without a series. Because there is no minimum races for a UCI series to exist, any number of the races could try to come together and form their own UCI-sanctioned series. However, with the discussion of a USAC NRC-style series, perhaps these races become part of it? If USAC wanted to create a successful series though, they would most likely need to form two separate series—one for each coast. If this happens, the odds are that not all of these races will participate.

Realistically, I’m betting on the formation a few new regional series, rather than yet another national series—even one backed by USAC. The Cincinnati 3-day, North Carolina GP, Jingle Cross Rock, and Kingsport Cup could join to form a Midwest eight-race series. The Krosstober-fest and Dam Cross weekends could be combined with Cross Vegas to form a five-race West Coast series.

However, there are more wrinkles: a UCI race in Wilkesboro, NC is tentatively on the schedule for Saturday, January 14, 2012, with the Kingsport Cup taking place on the 15th (a three-hour drive away). Also, Cincinnati may play host to another UCI race (Kings Cross) in December. If the promoters of these races decide to go ahead with their plans, here’s a more likely regional scenario: the three North Carolina races and the Kingsport Cup will form a “Southeast Cup” (expect someone else in the region to promote a race or two to bring the series to six races). There will be a Midwest Cup featuring four UCI races in Ohio and three in Iowa. Finally, a West Coast Cup featuring Cross Vegas, the four UCI races in California, and—should the new NACT style series fail—Star Crossed and the Rad Racing GP would bring the series to seven races.

Clearly, anything is still possible, but with what we know currently the scenarios above seem to be the most likely outcomes of the UCI’s enforcing of these “new” rules. USA Cycling, and a potential NRC-style calendar, will play a crucial role in allowing many of these independent cross events to continue. One would assume that USAC would want to work with the promoters who have been caught-out, but that remains to be seen. Let’s hope that while the 2011-2012 season might look different, the vitality of the sport will remain strong.

Share your comments below.

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3 Responses to Special Cyclocross Report: Changes to the Domestic Landscape

  1. rdp says:

    How likely is it that this is due to Tim Johnson's front row start in Koksijde?

    • Whit says:

      It's a question worth asking for sure! I thought the same thing myself–the timing certainly supports the hypothesis.


  2. rick m says:

    You may be right but it probably has as much or more to do with the U.C.I. wanting to exercise their complete control over everything racing, no matter where that may be. Between the recent growth of cross in the U.S. and the upcoming Louisville Worlds they seem to want to make sure everyone knows who's in charge. As far as Johnson's front row starts let's hope he can make them count in the coming months. Having a few Americans starting in the front row and then finishing in the thirties won't garner a lot of respect from the Europeans.

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