By Sue George
With the demise of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) held annually in the United States, North American mountain bikers were left wondering 'What's next?'. Going into the 2009 season, Team Sho-Air's Scott Tedro has stepped up to lead an effort to create a new national-level series: the US Cup. What remains to be seen is if Tedro and other advocates for the series can muster enough sponsorship to support the series. Although the members of the cycling industry have voiced general support for the new US Cup, sponsorship dollars have been slow to materialize.
The proposed US Cup would include races in Fontana, Laguna Seca and Los Olivos, California; Fountain Hills, Arizona; Angel Fire, New Mexico; Windham, New York; and Mt. Snow, Vermont, many of which were popular NMBS venues. Nearly all of the races, running from late March through early August, would award UCI points. Furthermore, the series would pay equal prize money to elite men and women and aim to provide a "very rewarding" experience for amateur racers.
When Tedro put out the full series proposal and an initial call for sponsorship to monetarily support the new national-level series, a deafening silence followed.
"It is like beating my head against the wall. We are far away from our goal," said Tedro to Cyclingnews in early September. "Although everyone seems to want the series, not enough are stepping up."
Creating a series to replace the NMBS came with some baggage. Reading recent conversations on public forums, it's clear the NMBS has had its problems. In its later days, it seems not to have served the amateur racers as well as in past days, and many categories showed poor attendance at some venues.
"For the first 30 days [after proposing the US Cup], everyone could only say what was wrong with the NMBS," Tedro said. He wanted to move forward, taking what worked from the NMBS, discarding what didn't, and mixing in his own ideas.
After countless hours on the phone to industry players, Tedro won over Specialized, the first manufacturer to step up and sponsor the series. The company later increased is commitment and will now be the title sponsor of the series.
"It's great that Scott picked up the ball and worked to put together this series," said Ben Capron of Specialized to Cyclingnews. "We're really excited about the potential to build more momentum for domestic mountain bike racing. We think the series might be the vehicle to do just that.
"Our primary goal for being involved is to help support a series that can inspire people to come out and race and to give a platform for the best domestic and even international riders to compete."
Yet, Specialized's support alone wasn't enough to cover the budget for the series and Tedro continues to troll for additional sponsors.
Tedro hasn't given up hope. He extended his deadline for acquiring sponsorship from September 19 to October 3, after Interbike, a trade show where he is busy recruiting this week. Thus far, Hayes, Gary Fisher, Trek, ESI Grips are on board at various levels.
Now more optimistic that the series will go forward in one form or another, he admitted that he may have to scale down some of his ideas for the first year as the series becomes more established.
"It's at enough of a level of commitment level that I think we can pull it off," said Tedro earlier this week.
Read the complete feature and see the proposed US Cup Schedule.