Update, February 8, 2016: The UCI’s Peter van de Abeele confirmed with Cyclocross Magazine that the Masters World Championships will be in Mol, Belgium for three years starting in December 2016. The Reno Nationals / Masters Worlds double, as described below, will not be happening.
Update, February 1, 2016: According to the preliminary 2016/2017 UCI Cyclocross Calendar just released, the 2016 UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships will now be held in Mol, Belgium in December 1-2, 2016.
The 2016 UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships that was to be hosted in San Jose, California has been cancelled.
After an announcement at Bay Area Super Prestige cyclocross race at Candlestick Park, Cyclocross Magazine broke the official news on November 21, 2015 that promoter Murphy Mack of Super Pro Racing had been awarded the race.
Mack and USA Cycling instead hope to hold the event in San Jose in 2017 and 2018, with the 2018 event dovetailing with the National Championships in Reno, a four-hour drive away.
As of the time of this article, there is no backup plan or location for the 2016 Masters World Championships, and the UCI has not awarded any contract for the 2017 or 2018 event.
How Did We Get Here?
“Post away!” SuperPro promoter Murphy Mack told Cyclocross Magazine after his successful last-minute bid was announced over the loudspeakers at the Bay Area Super Prestige cyclocross race at Candlestick Park on November 21, 2015. Until that surprise announcement at the race, 2016 Masters Worlds was just a rumored possibility.
Prior to the announcement at the local race, USA Cycling already gave Cyclocross Magazine the green light to release the news. Mack had contracts in hand, the city of San Jose also weighed in with its endorsement, and Cyclocross Magazine alerted the racing community as to the last-minute news that the 2016 UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships finally found a home.
We published preliminary details from USA Cycling and Murphy Mack, but registration, a website, and even fees were still to be finalized. Interest was high, with the majority of our unscientific poll expressing an interest in attending, after, or instead of, the 2016 National Championships in Asheville.
Cyclocross Magazine and Masters racers across the world waited patiently for final details. What were the the final dates? How would seeding and qualifications work? Would the no-UCI points rule be modified? And when can racers register?
After days went by without the expected details or press release, Cyclocross Magazine reached out to USA Cycling for an update last week.
On December 2, USA Cycling’s Micah Rice, Director of Events, said they were waiting for Mack’s “schedule and qualification/seeding info to be published” and an update and press release should be ready by December 4.
When that day came and went, and contact attempts to Mack went unreturned, we became concerned. Any fan or racer impacted by the last-minute save by USA Cycling of the troubled 2013 Elite and Masters Worlds in Louisville, the cancellation and postponement of the final day of the 2015 Nationals, and the cancellation of the 2015 Montreal World Cup could be forgiven for some skepticism when details were slow to emerge on this top-level UCI event.
Not Just Any Race: Worlds Planning, Communication Needs More Time
Rice reached out to Cyclocross Magazine yesterday to explain that USA Cycling and Mack came to the decision that they needed more time to successfully put on a world-class event, and had alerted the UCI that the 2016 San Jose event is cancelled.
“This event came to us really late…and we at USA Cycling really trust Murphy will put on a great event, but at this point, with six weeks until the event, we’ve made the recommendation to [him] that he wait a year,” Rice told Cyclocross Magazine.
Rice said that while Mack originally applied directly to the UCI to host the event without USA Cycling’s involvement, USA Cycling was on board and supported the idea and remain supportive of the event coming to San Jose.
“We supported the bid, and we are confident that Murphy can do something like this,” Rice said. “We’re not confident that we can pull it together in this amount of time and so we’ve sent a [cancellation] note to the UCI,” Rice explained. “It all happened so quick and so late, and it is a UCI World Championship, a lot of our members are Masters, and everyone deserves a really amazing event.”
When asked what changed since USA Cycling came on board and approved the race, Rice explained it just came down to details and time. “I think when we really started to get down into the weeds on it, it was shown it was going to be really difficult to make it work,” Rice revealed. “There were so many things in terms of qualifications, in terms of seeding, and in terms of communication to the rest of the world…and just the need to get the information out to all the other countries, we just came to the conclusion that it would be difficult to do. Tight timeline, and as we all know, running a regional or national caliber race is just a completely different beast than running a world championship. We want to make sure that not only is Murphy and San Jose represented well, but the United States as well.”
When Cyclocross Magazine reached out last week after the radio silence, it’s now clear we weren’t the only ones who were getting nervous. Despite last week’s update that official race details were coming, the team was getting nervous as well. Rice revealed, “You know we just kind of all were getting very very stressed out about it…all of us, Murphy was stressed, I was getting stressed, and a number of folks were worried, and I was talking to our Cyclocross Advisory Committee and they were they were getting nervous about it.”
The shrinking window also made Mack nervous, despite his confidence in his team to pull off the event. Masters Worlds represented Mack’s first attempt to promote a USA Cycling or UCI event, and the learning curve proved to be steep. “It’s a huge, complicated event, and when we went for it, when they said okay, we had eight weeks from that point,” Mack explained. “There was a lot of back and forth, and there were three different things that needed to be addressed, UCI Rules, USA Cycling’s thoughts, and Super Pro putting it together in San Jose, and part of it was there’s a half a day time difference between Switzerland and here, and everything takes longer between sending contracts going back and forth, and [getting] questions answered. And it took some time to get all that hammered out, and now that we’re ready to start producing the event, we’ve got six weeks until the gun goes off, and two of those weeks are with Christmas, Hannukah and New Years.”
Rice’s advice buffered Mack’s optimism. “I think it’s something, just literally in the past couple of days, that we concluded it was going to be just too hard,” Rice said.
“The clientele [who is] going to show up for a Masters World Championships is very different, and there’s different expectations, and I truly want to set Murphy up for success, and that’s why we’re going to wait.” -USA Cycling’s Micah Rice
Mack, who is a grass roots Bay Area cyclocross and gravel event promoter, appreciates the perspective. “Micah Rice has seen a lot more events of this magnitude than I have, and he brought up a number of concerns that I thought were extremely valid based on the time we had to do it, and we didn’t want it to be just a West Coast USA championships,” Mack admitted.
No Worlds Is Better than a Flawed, Last-Minute Worlds
When asked if it’s better to not have Masters Worlds this year instead of having a last-minute event dominated by Americans, Rice felt strongly that it was better not to hold an event without sufficient planning time. “If you’re going to run a world championship, you need to make sure the rest of the world really has a shot at it. With six weeks to go, try to tell that guy in Sweden that yeah, he should just get a ticket and zip over.”
“USA Cycling and UCI don’t put themselves in a position to really fail, and I don’t want to either,” Mack explained. “I don’t want to attach our name, especially not having produced a world championship with the UCI…I don’t want to put us in a position to fail, and they don’t want to either.”
“Delaying it was a difficult decision for sure,” Mack continued. “Our organization can do events that are big and complicated on short notice, that’s our strength, but this is big and involves other entities than beyond just us. Yeah, we can handle our end of the saw, but who knows what other questions will come up, it just makes sense to error on the side of caution. It’s a world championship and that’s the sort of thing that people will remember.”
2017 and 2018 Doubleheader with Reno Nationals a Possibility
Rice said both USA Cycling and Mack are motivated to take a year to prepare for the 2017 event, with an eye towards also hosting the 2018 event in San Jose, just four hours from Reno, the host city of the National Championships that year. “There’s an opportunity for a lot of people to do back-to-back a  National Championship and World Championship, and that’s something that’s never been done in the United States, and that made sense to Murphy as well,” Rice said.
However, without the 2016 event, there isn’t a contract in place for 2017 at this time, meaning next year’s event is not a sure thing yet, Rice emphasized. And just as with the cancelled Montreal World Cup, despite an initial two-year contract, the door remains theoretically open for any promoter in any country to make a bid for next year’s Masters Worlds (as Jingle Cross has done for the September World Cup slot).
Mack is excited to potentially have over a year to put together the 2017 Masters World Championships, and warns riders to use that time wisely as well.
“Giving us a year to plan an event of this magnitude, I can guarantee you that any rider [who] comes will need to full year to prepare themselves for what they’ll be facing when they get here.” -Murphy Mack
Pundits may be quick to lump this unfortunate news into past championship event difficulties like the flood-shortened 2013 Elite Worlds in Louisville or the heritage tree-postponed final day of the 2015 Nationals in Austin, but if anything, cancelling this event shows that USA Cycling has learned from past championship challenges and pulled the plug to minimize the chances of having another bumpy ride at a championship event.
Mack also has learned from the experience, especially from working with USA Cycling and the UCI. “UCI Worlds events are big, complicated things with a lot of stakeholders that need to be done to the World Championship spec. The UCI has exceedingly high standards, that’s why they’re the UCI, and that’s why they’re the World Championships. It’s got to be ready for all participants.”
Nationals bids now have a litmus test of having a test event, and perhaps past experience in working with USA Cycling and the UCI also could be a useful requirement in hosting World Championship events in the future to make coordination smoother.
Mack however doesn’t regret his short-lived attempt to host the homeless 2016 race. “I don’t regret anything, there’s nothing to regret,” Mack said. “I want to see everyone in 2017 and 2018, and if you give us a year to put everything together, you’re gonna need a year to get ready for it.”
Racers have been warned. If Mack and USA Cycling land the 2017 event, we’ll see you there.