The elite men get ready to roll out at the start of Sun Prairie last year. © Aaron Johnson
You may have read the first installment of our “What’s Happening to the USGP Races?” Series last week, and as promised, we’re running the interviews that we had with each of the individual race promoters of the four race weekends formerly associated with the series. First up, we heard from Brad Ross of the USGP in Bend at the Deschutes Brewery. Then we heard from Joe Czerwonka from the Louisville Derby City Cup race, now the Sophisticated Living Derby City Cup, part of the OVCX Series. Now, we’re hearing from Renee Calloway of the Sun Prairie race in Wisconsin, the race that traditionally follows CrossVegas.
Cyclocross Magazine: Were you surprised by the news that the USGP wouldn’t continue as a series? What was your initial reaction?
Renee Calloway: It wasn’t a complete surprise as obviously we knew of the struggles to keep the series going, especially last year. Of course, it was a disappointment that it wasn’t possible to keep it going, but one that was understandable. My first reaction was just sadness in seeing such a great series come to an end which was quickly followed by thinking of what we would need to do to keep our race going.
CXM: As of now, will you still be hosting the race? Will you still have a C1 race?
RC: We moving forward with continuing a UCI race here in Wisconsin as we feel it is important to keep opportunities at that level available in the upper Midwest. We hope to have one day be C1 but we are still working on sponsorship and won’t know if that will be possible until we get everything finalized. It’s obviously a very large financial commitment to go from C2 to C1 and we don’t want to commit to that until we are sure that we have the necessary sponsorship. Even before our event joined the USGP, we were committed to offering equal prize money for women and we still feel that way but, of course, that makes keeping our C1 status just that much more challenging financially.
We are excited that Trek Bicycles will be coming on board as our title sponsor for this year. We are working very closely with them to ensure that we can continue our event as planned with one day as a C1 and one day as C2. We still need to find some additional sponsors to meet our budget needs but obviously having a title sponsor like Trek on board and supporting our event has made a big difference to us moving forward.
CXM: How did being a USGP race affect your finances and sponsorships in past years? What alternative plans have you started to make?
RC: Once our event joined the USGP series, we only had to bring in some local sponsors to augment the national sponsors. This obviously made things much easier for us. Now we are back to being responsible for bringing in all the sponsorship ourselves which obviously increases our work.
CXM: What’s the tentative plan for the 2013 race?
RC: Our plan is to take everything we learned from the USGP staff and put on the best possible event that we can. We want to keep the quality of the race high so that we can continue to attract the top racers while also ensuring it is still fun for the amateur racer.
However, with Trek coming on board as a sponsor we are also working with USAC and the UCI to move the event to the Trek Factory in Waterloo, Wisconsin. We don’t have the final approval for this move but we have had positive feedback based on our initial discussions. Most people don’t realize this but Trek owns quite a bit of property with excellent terrain and amenities for cyclocross. We think that racers and spectators will love this venue and Waterloo is actually just down the road from our original location in Sun Prairie.
CXM: What kind of communication have you had with USA Cycling or the UCI since the USGP series was canceled?
RC: USA Cycling has reached out to us and has offered to assist us however they can. They also have been assisting us with our plans to move the race to the Trek Factory.
CXM: What kind of communication have you had with other USGP race promoters? What kind of ideas have you tossed around about potentially keeping the races together or unified?
RC: At this point we haven’t had time to talk to the other promoters about keeping our races unified so I don’t even know if there is interest. Since both myself and John Ericsson, the other race director, have full-time jobs, we are just focusing our time on keeping our race going.
CXM: What do you think that the lack of a national series means for cyclocross in the US?
RC: I do think it is a loss for pro racers. A high quality national series gives pros, as well as aspiring pros, a place where they know they can find the best competition.
CXM: Do you think another national series will come into being in future years? What is the importance of having a national series?
RC: I think that another national series will come along eventually and I think a well-run, professional series does offer something to pros while capturing the interest of race fans.
CXM: Was it rewarding being part of the USGP? Why (or why not)?
RC: Being a part of the USGP series allowed us to learn a lot about how to put on a top quality event and both John and I as well as all of our local volunteers will take that knowledge and use it to move our event forward. Joan and Bruce took a risk in asking our event to join the series after only one year of being a UCI event and we will always appreciate that. We will miss working with them and all of the great USGP staff.