Many cyclocrossers and fans have attempted to recognize the results of cyclocrossers as they attempt to battle pavement specialists. We did so during last year’s Amgen Tour of California. Now it appears that the UCI will finally officially do so.
The UCI announced today that it has plans to incorporate a Cyclocross Cup in the North American road racing calendar. The idea has been in development for more than two years with test subject riders including Tim Johnson, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Jeremy Powers, Jesse Anthony, Chris Jones and other top North American cyclocross racers who also race full road seasons.
Tim Johnson, one of the most renowned cyclocross racers in America, explained the idea behind the NARRCC (North American Road Racing Cyclocross Cup). “Since we rarely have opportunity to win road races, we thought a cyclocross cup would give us more chances to get on the podium and gain recognition in the road racing circuit,” Johnson explained. “My colleagues and I race super-hard all fall and into the winter in inclement weather conditions, and we never get a chance to properly rest like most road racers do. That puts us a step behind come March when the road season starts, and it hinders us from really hitting peak form in the summer. On the contrary we usually have to take small breaks throughout the year in order keep our heads above water.”
We were also able to catch up with Jeremy Powers, who won several of North America’s top cyclocross races last fall, including both of the national series. Powers shed light on some different aspects of what a ’cross cup in the US would mean to the cycling community. “You don’t know how frustrating it is when road dudes come up to me in August and talk about racing ’cross because it looks like so much fun and they think they could do really well,” the new Rapha Focus ride exclaims. “They ask me if I can get them a sponsor because they won a few field sprints this year in some road races. But what we do is hard, really hard, and you can’t just come race ’cross and be the best in an instant. You have to earn your stripes, and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. The crazy thing is, come September these same guys complain that they’re so tired there’s no way they could race anymore that year. The NARRCC would give us something to focus on during the road season when we’re spending so much effort working for our teammates. It would also gain a lot of publicity for cyclocross and encourage some cross-promotion between the two disciplines. “
Some of the more road-focused cyclocross racers, Chris Jones and Andy Jacques-Maynes, also commented on what the Cyclocross Cup would mean to them during the road season. Jacques-Maynes explained his point of view, “I like going hard all the time, whether it’s a training ride, a cyclocross race or a road race, I just love riding my bike as hard as I can. To get a reward for needlessly going all out at the end of a road race is just a bonus on top of all the hard work I do for my teammates. Having a Cyclocross Cup as a race within a race would be a really great opportunity for me to just hurt myself while riding bicycle. I can’t imagine anything more exciting for the sport of road racing. “
Jones was slightly more cynical of the idea. “I don’t know, who really needs more points and competitions to think about during a road race? I have enough to deal with trying to fend off the criticism and sarcasm from the Massholes. I don’t care about which ’cross racer beats me or I beat in a road race. I’ll participate in the Cup if it happens though, why not? I could use the extra press and recognition.”
Jesse Anthony seemed indecisive about committing to the Cyclocross Cup. “I still can’t decide if I want to continue racing cyclocross, or focus solely on the road. It kind of motivates me to race enough ’cross races this year to qualify for the NARRCC. I know that’s kind of sandbagging, but I just don’t have the energy to keep racing a full ’cross season. I like all the idea of a special points competition during the road season though, and I think I could pull the JA card out to get to a few ’cross races for free this fall. I’ll have to talk to my coach and Tim and a few other people to see what they think, maybe it would be good for my career to keep racing some ’cross.”
Needless to say, there is plenty of support in favor of the NARRCC. The UCI set out certain criteria by which the series will most likely be run. There must be a minimum of 3 UCI top-100 ranked cyclocross racers in an event for it to be considered in the Cup. Certain concessions could be made for riders who’s teammates win a stage or hold a leader’s jersey. More ’cross racers at an event would boost the points up for grabs, as would the caliber of the event, the time of year, and even the presence of the current NARRCC points leader.