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Cyclocross

Adam Myerson: The popularity in gravel is going to lead to an echo in cyclocross

The New England Cyclocross Series may have been postponed but cyclocross is still relevant and growing in the US.

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First the bad news.

After an incredible run, and having provided a foundation on which many U.S. cyclocross stars have built their careers, the New England Cyclocross Series (NECXS) has been postponed for the 2022 season.

It’s an indefinite hiatus, according to series organizer Adam Myerson, who has kept the show on the road for the last 20 years, with the pandemic, calendar conflicts and other factors culminating in the decision to sunset the series for the time being.

The good news, and there is some, is that cyclocross is still bubbling along nicely in the U.S. according to Myerson, with new events starting to crop up and an influx of new riders and racers flowing over from the burgeoning gravel scene.

Speaking to VeloNews after announcing the current end of the NECXS series in New England, Myerson elaborated on the difficult decision that he was forced to make over the last few months.

“The shortest explanation is that I only had my own races left. I only had the Northampton weekend, so that’s one weekend and two races. I guess technically speaking, two races is enough for a series but it just didn’t feel good to do that,” he said. “It felt almost embarrassing to do it that way. So I just decided to let it go for a bit.”

The series was a staple of the U.S. cyclocross scene having formed in the 1980s and at one point consisting of over a dozen events across the region.

During the 1990s and 2000s, a host of U.S. cyclocross riders came through the series, using it as a stepping stone to elite racing in Europe. But over the last few years, and especially during the pandemic, the series retracted to the point where Myerson struggled to keep it alive.

Myerson has been organizing ‘cross races since his late teens and has seen the discipline grow and contract at several points during his time in the sport, but rule changes conflicts in the calendar eventually had a knock-on effect.

“At that point, as long as the races weren’t in the same region, we’d have multiple UCI races on the same weekend. There was a lot of debate about whether that was good or bad, but when the Super Cup disappeared and then the USGP disappeared, even if there wasn’t a US series we could count on there being a New England series,” he said.

“There was a long history of stars starting in the juniors of the series, like Jeremy Powers, Ellen Noble, so many that went onto the best races in Europe started as juniors and raced every category in the series. It served its purpose.”

“But races got more expensive to run, life moved on for people, races stopped for races other than economics and there weren’t new organizers coming up.

“Then we lost some races like Supercross because there were limited weekends with no conflicts. Post-pandemic, that was a challenge and I was down to Falmouth and Northampton. None of the others survived.

“There was a contraction but the pandemic put the boot in for some races that were on the edge. Falmouth had never been part of the series, they had always stood alone but post pandemic they agreed to partner with me and we had a two-weekend, four race series. I felt that was enough to keep us going. This year Falmouth had the chance to partner with USCX, which I guess you could call our de facto national series.”

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While the loss of the series leaves a hole in the U.S. cyclocross landscape, Myerson still believes that the discipline remains healthy in North America, with new races and waves of new participants streaming into the sport.

“The retraction has ended. We are in a period of growth now and I think that the streamlining is good. I think we all agree that it’s a good idea that there’s only one UCI race per-weekend. We want the focus to be those races and for the best riders to be at those races. So that does mean that there’s less capacity but we also have some open weekends, like the weekend before nationals,” he added.

Curtis White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) escaped early and comfortably rode to victory. Photo: Chris McIntosh

According to Myerson, it is gravel racing that has inspired a new audience towards cyclocross with participants in the “new” discipline searching for new challenges during the winter months.

“As far as the regeneration goes, I have a sense of what’s happening in New England because I’m here but I’m also on the USA Cycling ‘cross committee, and I think that you’re seeing the comeback,” he said.

“You’re seeing it in the Northwest right now with a new series and a new organizer. It’s growing and I have my fingers crossed. This is anecdotal but the popularity in gravel is going to lead to an echo in cyclocross, more so than it will on the road. A lot of the new gravel racers have bikes that are suitable for cyclocross and they want to keep riding. I know that as a coach and an organizer I’m getting enquiries from folks on the gravel side who want to check out ‘cross and want to get started.”

For now the NECXS series has been shuttered but Myerson still holds out hope that he will be able to resurrect it in the coming years ahead.

Who knows? Maybe gravel racing and the new cyclocross events springing up in the U.S. will provide the perfect landscape for a once great series to find its place on the calendar once more.

“My vision for a cyclocross series in New England is still there and I hope that with some of the race organizers who are growing their races right now they might get to the level of where they are interested. I’m absolutely committed to trying to reinstate or revive it but that’s not next year either. It takes a couple of years to get to that level, so for now I have to call it an indefinite postponement.”