You may have read the first installment of our “What’s Happening to the USGP Races?” Series, 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 taking a ‘promoter break’ and hearing Micah Rice, event coordinator at USA Cycling
Cyclocross Magazine: It seems like a lot of the pro racers aren’t going to be hitting all of the former USGP races now that they aren’t united.
Micah Rice: You saw a little bit of that this year. A lot of people try to hit them all, but you saw people who didn’t try. Jeremy Powers doesn’t hit all of them. Some people did in the past, but I think not pulling them together as a series may have a bit of impact on a few of the pros that travel but I think overall, I think people still want to attend a C1, the top men and women are still interested in C1 points and I think that the impact in terms of participation will be minimal. I know a lot of them are trying to scrounge up all of the needed sponsorship right now, that’s a big piece, since a chunk of that is gone with the USGP going away. But it sounds like all of these groups are doing just fine.
I’ve personally reached out to everyone, spoken to most everyone on the phone, and had a conversation about the whole thing. Now that they’re all responsible for creating that budget on their own there were some concerns, but most people are pulling it together at this point. Short of writing a big check, we want to be able to support these events and make sure that they can keep C1 status. We’d like the groups to keep the C1 status if they feel that they’re strong enough. We don’t have any rookies here. They’ve been doing it, been involved long enough. They understand what it takes to put on that level of race, and we don’t necessarily make them jump through a ton of crazy hoops to keep their C1 status and we don’t want to downgrade them for no good reason. In the end that just hurts our athletes who are trying to get UCI points. So on our end, we’re going to do what we can to provide support and knowledge and know-how for all these events if they need it, in hopes of trying to keep their C1 status so they can keep it for next season.
CXM: Do you think next year we’re going to see a new series come out?
MR: That’s a good question. My thoughts are that you might see something. As they always say, opportunity rises from the ashes. So we’ll see if someone can kind of try to pull something off. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see the Shimano series go National, or maybe you’ll see Brook Watts add a couple events to Cross After Dark and turn it into a four weekend series. There are a lot of things that could happen. And as a sport, we need to take a hard look at this and say, ‘How important is a series?’ In the sport of cyclocross, is that really necessary, or can we have a really good collection of stand-alone solid C1 weekends that end up being the eight or nine races that everyone wants to attend and we create a better calendar flow?
You don’t necessarily need a series to keep the sport moving forward. So those are all questions that we’ve got. We’ve got some stuff we’re working on here at USA Cycling that is going to try to strengthen the cyclocross calendar and you’ll hear more on that soon.
CXM: Speaking of which, you have the Pro rankings on USA Cycling. Is there anything about that that will change without the USGP?
MR: We just awarded points based on UCI points gotten. We started to brand that national calendar as the Pro CX. Obviously it’s an impossible calendar to follow, because sometimes there are two or three events on the same weekend. So it’s not a series that teams or riders can follow. What we’d like to create is a strong set of events that all the pros want to go to. Whether that’s done on the level of a private series like the USGP or the Shimano Series, a private series that has the same sponsors or an overall prize purse, or is more of an allegiance between race directors, that’s one way to go. Or it could just be, ‘Let’s see what we could do to create value to get all these top riders to these C1 events’ and not create a series, but some level of pro calendar with stops that people are actually following, that the media can follow, that the riders can follow, that the fans can follow. How do you add value to those?
I think one of the things that everyone has tried to do but more often than not is not successful at are really good, high quality web streams, some level of TV broadcast. Whether that’s live on youtube or a dedicated webstream that we’ve seen in the past from Flocast or something. You’ll probably see conversations surrounding that in the next couple months as we try to see what we can do out there.
We like the idea of rallying around the C1s, mainly because in terms of points, they have the most value for the pro riders, and they directly relate to call-ups at World Cups and World Championships. Those are the people who’ve really invested in the infrastructure and production value of their event. Not to say that there aren’t some fantastic C2s on the list. Some might argue that there are C2s on the calendar that are better events than some of the C1s. But I think that moving down the road, those pros need those UCI points to race at an international level. So it makes the most sense for us to try to take that group of events and create value within that structure.
CXM: So you guys have some stuff in the works!
MR: It will be interesting. Louisville was a huge struggle behind the scenes but it wasn’t as much struggle in the public eye. I think the people who showed up in Louisville for Worlds and got to see that event were so glad that they were there. I still talk to people who are like, ‘Dammit, I should have gone.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, you should have.’ It was good to have it there and it definitely set the bar for US cyclocross and what we can do.
CXM: Back to Worlds for a second—the whole ‘pulling it off in one day’ thing!
MR: That made for the story right there! It kind of adds to the legend of the event…