By Bill Plock
Oct 20th, 2022–303Endurance spoke to the National Cycling League and learned a few things behind the scenes if you will. As publicly released the league’s majority investors are professional athletes and entertainers and most notably all-pro Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
There will be four races across the country; South Beach in Miami, Atlanta, Denver, and Washington DC. The race in Denver will be in August (firm dates released soon). The hope is to have a venue with more than a bike race experience. Think music and other entertainment and an energetic “gotta stay and play” atmosphere. The event will work hard to have a positive impact on underserved communities and spectators. The majority of investment will come from minorities and women.
Each race will technically be an “invitational”. While sanctioned by USA Cycling, by being an invitational they can deviate from traditional scoring and offer a more entertaining race. According to our source, each lap will count. “It won’t be a traditional crit where you sit back and then pounce on the lead on the last lap, it will be much more compelling than the traditional primes that are offered.”
The league will feature two in-house teams with eight men and eight women and will have a couple of racers in development (think practice squad in the NFL). These teams will race against each other and eight other teams invited to join soon. What’s interesting, all teams will have to have an equal number of men and women. But, if you are a team like the DNA Cycling women’s team, you can partner with a men’s team and compete. If you think you have what it takes to be on the in-house team or manage a team who wants to travel and compete, here is a link to apply: https://www.nclracing.com/regis
As previously reported the league will have unprecedented prize money with the largest prize purse in U.S. crit racing history with a $1 Million up for grabs. To win their share of the purse, 10 teams (2 NCL teams and 8 invited teams) will compete in four NCL Invitational races in 2023, to be held in Miami Beach, Fla.; Atlanta, Ga.; Denver, Colo.; and Washington D.C. The races will start in March and end in September.
David Mulugheta, the NFL’s most powerful agent and a co-founder of the NCL, said, “I’ve been in the sports industry for 15 years and this is the most exciting opportunity I’ve seen. Beyond the substantial number of people who bike, the ability to build the league from the ground up allows us to get the business, the values, and the ownership structure right. This is why so many professional athletes, entertainers, and people of influence are so excited about what we are building.”
The venue in Denver will be announced in the coming weeks and we are excited to be part of it and will bring you news shortly. We were told there will be a prominent Colorado cyclist on one of the in-house teams and we will be excited to talk with him/her soon!
So glad Denver/Colorado was picked for one of the races in the inaugural launch of NCL. As many of us who have been involved in cycling for decades, we’ve always felt criterium style racing sells the sport where fast paced action is exciting and easy to understand for neophyte spectators and the sports media. We used to have that when I was racing in the 1970’s & 80’s. The Vail Criterium always drew hundreds to the thousands during the Red Zinger and Coors Classic years. The 1976 and 1977 Larimer Square Criterium drew over 1000 spectators lining the course and had great media coverage.
Getting the interest in the average spectator and sports media for NCL and other closed circuit racing will only help bring attention, acceptance, growth and sponsorship for all competitive cycling events; especially stage racing. Hopefully the multi-day Colorado Classic will return with its excellent organization and focus on women’s racing, adding to the excitement and legitimacy of competitive cycling, so neglected by the US & Colorado mainstream sports media.
Colorado was the birthplace of great American cycling and cyclists. Let’s all get out and support this new era and return