The top domestic races in the USA will be divided into two separate racing series in 2012, USA Cycling announced today. The National Racing Calendar will no longer include any of the single-day criteriums that make up half of the series. Those events will be on the newly introduced National Criterium Calendar (NCC).
USA Cycling said it expects the NCC "to include the top dozen or so marquee American criterium events".
Unlike the demonstration-only post-Tour de France criteriums in Europe, the American criterium races are hotly contested events which, because of the relative ease of hosting the event when compared with road races and the spectator-friendly nature, have become the most predominant type of bicycle race in the country.
Micah Rice, USA Cycling's Managing Director of National Events explained the rationale behind the decision to Cyclingnews. "We created the criterium calendar to do a few things: to create a manageable calendar of races that teams both small and big can follow, to create a series of races that have the same teams invited, and to create a showcase of the American-style racing that is quite popular here."
The UCI and USA Cycling have been working over the past year to come to a compromise which will allow the sport's top level teams to compete in some national-level events. By UCI rules, ProTeams and Professional Continental squads are not allowed to race non-UCI events. However, a deal was struck this year to allow the top teams to race criteriums that have been submitted to the UCI's criterium calendar.
ProTeam, Pro Continental, Continental and amateur squads will be able to compete in the NCC, according to Rice, while the women's fields will be open to registered elite amateur teams, as is the case for the NRC.
"This series will be open to the big teams that need US visibility (UnitedHealthcare for example) but also is a very manageable series for smaller teams that can't afford to make it to all 30 races on the NRC."
Rice said his organisation will work to resolve date conflicts between the events, which have been a hot-button issue in the past. This year the Tour of the Gila overlapped with both the USA Crits Speedweek races and the Dana Point Grand Prix, while Tulsa Tough conflicted with the Air Force Cycling Classic.
"We will continue to alleviate conflicts between the NRC and the NCC because many teams will want to race both," Rice said.