PORTLAND, Ore. (VN) _ A meeting of cyclocross event promoters Friday could clarify next year’s unsettled domestic calendar, but the process is likely to include some heated negotiation.
Promoters go into the meeting in Bend, Oregon, jockeying for dates on the 2011-2012 schedule, which has been thrown into disarray by the UCI’s decision to use a heavier hand in policing its event rules in the U.S. Meanwhile, the U.S. calendar has been shifted and extended at either end as cyclocross nationals move from mid-December to early January and the key season-opener CrossVegas moves a week earlier in September.
There were more UCI-sanctioned ‘cross events in the States than in any single European nation this season. U.S. promoters have speculated that the UCI’s new interest in enforcing calendar rules is driven by a desire to trim the number of U.S. events.
UCI cyclocross commission member Geoff Proctor declined to comment on the situation prior to Friday’s meeting. Peter Van den Abeele, the UCI’s cyclocross coordinator, could not be reached this week.
Chief among the promoters’ concerns are conflicts over scheduling and the suspension of two of the country’s top ’cross series. The result is that many racers’ favorite events could be held on a different weekend and be part of a new series (or no series) next year.
The UCI last week suspended the North American Cyclocross Trophy and Verge New England Championship series — but not the series’ individual events — for the 2011-12 season for violating a long-ignored federation code. The series did not register their points system with the UCI, a violation that requires a one-year suspension.
The suspensions came as a surprise to the event promoters and series organizers, several of whom told VeloNews they had never been warned about any rules violation.
“The frustrating part is not being told for three years that we were in violation of the rule,” said Terry Buchanan, co-founder of the NACT and promoter of Washington’s StarCrossed event. But, “we were ignorant and didn’t know the rule and that’s our fault,” he conceded.
The USGP of Cyclocross points series is registered with the UCI and will not be suspended. The director of the Mid-Atlantic Cyclocross series told VeloNews Thursday that he has not been told by the UCI or anyone else that the series has been suspended. Mike Hebe said the series will probably run separate amateur and UCI races next year to comply with the rules. Likewise, Mitch Graham of the Ohio Valley Cyclo-Cross Tour told VeloNews Thursday that no one has contacted him about a violation.
The NACT will go into hibernation in 2011-12, but Buchanan alluded to a new calendar in the works. “There is a lot of behind the scenes scrambling going on and a lot of new ideas,” he said. “I want to see StarCrossed as part of something bigger than itself and there are other promoters that feel the same way.”
Verge New England series, 2011
Sept. 17-18 Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend, Williston, Vt.
Sept. 24 The Nor’easter CX @ Loon Mountain, Lincoln, N.H.
Oct. 1-2 Gran Prix of Gloucester, Gloucester, Mass.
Oct. 8-9 Providence Festival of Cyclocross, Providence, R.I.
Oct. 22-23 Downeast Cyclocross, New Gloucester, Maine
Nov. 5-6 Cycle-Smart International, Northampton, Mass.
Nov. 26-27 Bay State Cyclocross, Sterling, Mass.
Dec. 3-4 NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross, Warwick, R.I.
Buchanan is talking with several promoters about a national series of twilight cyclocross events next season.
The Verge series will continue for amateurs, series director Adam Myerson said (see schedule in sidebar). Organizers are applying for a new, eight-race UCI elite series as well, which will coincide with the Saturday Verge events.
“We scrambled to create something new out of it and I think we’re happy with the solutions we’ve come up with,” Myerson told VeloNews. “I think it’s a great solution and in the end, I think it’s possible that we’ll build something even better out of the ashes.”
Tentative 2011-2012 UCI World Cup schedule
2011: Oct. 16, Oct. 23, Nov. 26, Dec. 4, Dec. 18, Dec. 26. 2012: Jan. 15, Jan. 22
The UCI this week said it will enforce a new rule barring promoters from holding any top-ranked Category 1 (C1) races the same day as a UCI World Cup. The rule also bars promoters from holding C2 events on the same day as a C1 in the same region of the U.S.
There were seven C1 races in the U.S. in 2010, and none appear to conflict with any U.S. C2 events. However, two USGP C1 events did conflict with World Cup weekends.
The rules reduce the number of U.S. dates available for C1 events and thus are increasing tension among promoters vying for spots next year.
The pros’ opinion
The suspension of the NACT and Verge New England series will have little effect on amateur racers, other than a potential date change for their favorite events. All the events in those series are long established and have healthy amateur turnouts. The question is whether the big pros will show up if the events are not part of a major series.
Many top pros told VeloNews that it is event quality, not series points, that drives attendance. NACT and USGP champion Jeremy Powers said his Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team would start the races that attract the best fields, offered the best prize money and held the most prestige, regardless of affiliation.
That was demonstrated this year, for example when Powers and Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) faced off in Cincinnati in October. The three-day event was not part of the NACT or USGP, but was part of the Ohio Valley series, for which they were not contending. A month later, Iowa City’s Jingle Cross attracted one of the strongest men’s fields of the season, despite not being connected with any major series.
Will Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com be at a non-NACT Boulder Cup? Yes. A non-Verge Gloucester Gran Prix? Absolutely. Powers’ team director Stu Thorne said he’s looking forward to a tighter, higher quality race calendar in 2011.
One very crowded spot is the second weekend in October, which even this year already included the Providence festival and a Cincinnati festival. Next year, the new UCI rules could force another major event into that weekend: the Fort Collins, Colorado, USGP.
“Two weeks ago I was really excited about the 2011-12 season,” said Richard Fries, a prolific race announcer and a co-promoter of the Providence (Rhode Island) cyclocross festival. “You know how, when you true a wheel, if you tighten spokes nothing really happens, but when you loosen them you see a big change? I thought we were going to relax into a nice calendar.”
“I have to have some meetings that are going to be pretty charged, but I have to stand my ground,” he said.
Communication among promoters and the federations is at the heart of the conflict, said Myerson, who chairs the ‘cross promoters group that is meeting Friday in Bend.
“All of those channels of communication have been very good in the past and there is some kind of breakdown here that has us with our backs against the wall a little bit,” he told VeloNews. “I think the spirit of cooperation between the organizers doesn’t necessarily exist for all the organizers at this point.”
Editor’s Note: Brian Holcombe is a reporter with VeloNews. He covers all things racing in the U.S. and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride.