By VeloNews Interactive
The National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) announced three changes this week to the 2002 Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Series. The U.S. pro national dual slalom champion will be crowned in a one-day showdown at the season opener at Snow Summit, California. The Snow Summit event goes down May 9-12 in Big Bear Lake, California.
The top American finisher in the pro men’s and women’s categories on Saturday, May 11, will be awarded the 2002 pro national dual slalom title. The five-race series traditionally uses all its stops to determine pro champions in various disciplines, but a decision made earlier this year by the UCI to phase out the dual and introduce mountain cross required NORBA to examine its events as well.
“With the UCI changing their dual format to a mountain cross, we would be doing a disservice to those racers who want to compete at the World Cup and World Championship level,” said USA Cycling national events manager Eric Moore, in a statement released by USA Cycling. “How could we expect American athletes to be competitive at the international level if we aren’t providing similar training and racing opportunities Stateside?”
Moore credited the NORBA board of trustees for its decision to move ahead with the Mountain Cross format.
“The NORBA board showed great vision in moving forward with the mountain cross. The direction of the sport is changing and the board isn’t willing to let the sport turn stagnant. The trustees have the future of the sport in mind,” said Moore.
Out of respect for the tradition of the dual slalom, the board also decided on the one-day pro championship race. The national title for pro mountain cross will be awarded based on accumulated results over the four remaining NORBA events —Alpine Valley, Snowshoe, Durango, and Mount Snow.
While mountain cross will supplant the dual slalom at the pro level, amateur racers will still be able to race the side-by-side event.
“We realized how popular dual slalom was with fans, sponsors and riders,” said Rick Sutton, president of GaleForce. “Dual slalom — from the beginners through the experts — is still one of the best ways for a cyclist to learn the basics of downhill racing and mountain cross. We still see it as an important component in developing all of the gravity sports.”
Another rule change for 2002 is that pro National Bicycle League (NBL), USA Cycling’s BMX association, licenses will be honored for riders racing the dual slalom and mountain cross events at NORBA nationals at the pro level. This licensing procedure was tried out at the 2002 Sea Otter Classic.
“We want to lower the entry barriers to our sport,” said Moore, who encouraged the licensing decision.
The final change, which affects pro athletes, is that all five NORBA events will count toward the overall series and national championship titles. In previous years, an athlete’s overall series standings were determined only by their top four results, allowing them to throw out one result.
“We felt this is a sport at a professional level,” said Sutton. “You can’t throw out a game in the NFL; you can’t choose not to play a game in the NHL. If you want to win a national title…you’ll have to show up and race well every time.”