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After wrapping up two seasons in other venues, the USA CRITS Championship Series returns to Las Vegas to wrap up 2013. The criterium series was last in the “Gambling Capital of the World” in 2010, but thanks to a reinvigorated relationship with Interbike, this season’s finals are set to take place in the shadow of the Mandalay Bay entertainment complex today.
“When Interbike moved to Mandalay Bay, we got into some discussions with them because they were interested in having the race come back,” USA CRITS founder Gene Dixon said. “It was great idea to be able to walk out of the show and be at the bike race.”
This year, the riders will go in the opposite direction on the course in an effort to tame the tricky first corner that wound up being the bane of several competitors the last time the race visited this circuit.
“The first turn was kind of the hardest part of [the course],” Dixon said. “But there just aren’t a lot of options in terms of setting this up and getting the right amount of mileage out of it.”
With the men’s and women’s overall standings for 2013 largely finalized several races ago, the bigger news going into today’s final is the announcement of a newly configured version of the series being plotted for the coming season.
“We’re looking at changing things around and having an east coast series and a west coast series,” Dixon said. “And then there’s a kind of national series overlay with points that come only from the National Criterium Calender (NCC) races in the east and the west.”
It is Dixon’s hope that by generating three titles out of the series (in addition to individual categories such as lap leader, and best young rider), that smaller teams will be motivated to chase regional glory at races that larger squads won’t turn up at.
“A team like Cal Giant can’t really afford to ride a lot of the races we do on the east coast and visa versa,” Dixon said. “So the idea is that you can stay a little closer to home and still have the budget to ride these regional races and have a good showing. And teams like UnitedHealthcare or Team Type 1 won’t be in the hunt for half of these races, which changes the dynamic of these races.”
UnitedHealthcare’s lethal assault on the U.S. criterium circuit this year meant that the USA CRITS Series title was locked up on the men’s side of the competition quite a while ago. Entering today’s final, the squad occupies the top two spots on the leaderboard with Hilton Clarke and Carlos Alzate. Any hopes of third-place holder Shane Kline (Team Smartstop-Mountain Khakis) getting the better of the mighty “Blue Train” were dashed long ago.
Similarly, Erica Allar (CARE4CYCLING-Solomon) will take the women’s USA CRITS crown by over 400 points. Dixon hopes that the new format will level the playing field somewhat in the eyes of American bike racing fans while simultaneously elevating the profile of long-standing regional events with a profile lower than their NCC counterparts.
“We’re going to pick up some races like the San Rafael Twilight Criterium, which is a great west coast race that isn’t NCC, but maybe one of the best crits on that side of the country,” Dixon said. “Races like that will be added to the mix.”
Dixon is now in the process of securing sufficient levels of prize money for this new league-like structure to further entice greater team participation and to grow regional interest in squads that have smaller more localized followings.
Visit smartstopselfstorage.com for details on live streaming coverage of the 2013 USA CRITS Finals.