By Sue George
USA Cycling announced Wednesday the creation of a new national cross country series for professionals racing in the US. The USA Cycling Pro Mountain Bike Cross Country Tour presented by Sho-Air (ProXCT) will consist of seven UCI-sanctioned events throughout the US in 2009.
It replaces the now-defunct National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS), which wrapped up at the end of the 2008 season. The series is comprised of three east coast and three west coast races and a final in Las Vegas, Nevada, held one day after the annual Interbike Expo trade show. Unlike the NMBS races, which shared a common organizer, the ProXCT is a coalition of independent races linked together into a national series. All but one of the races are also part of the US Cup Kenda East or Kenda West series.
The series will open with the Fontana round of the US Cup in California, on March 29, then continue with the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey on April 19. The Bump N'Grind in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 31 will mark the third stop before Colorado Springs, Colorado, hosts the fourth round on June 13 with the Sand Creek International Classic. Mount Snow Resort in West Dover, Vermont, welcomes round five on August 8, and along with the Yankee Clipper at Windham Mountain in New York on August 15 will provide back-to-back East Coast stops.
Series ranking points will be awarded to top finishers at each round, with individual and team series leaders tallied. In addition, competitors will also have the opportunity to accumulate international ranking points since all seven races are inscripted on the UCI calendar.
Sho-Air International, an airfreight forwarder and tradeshow transportation expert, is the presenting sponsor of the ProXCT. The company also sponsors a racing team including riders like Sid Taberlay and Manny Prado. CEO Scott Tedro, who will serve as the US Cup Series president sees his investment as an effective marketing venture for Sho-Air.
"I'm lucky and excited to have been chosen to champion the ProXCT and honored to work with USA Cycling as a supporter of mountain bike racing in America," said Tedro. "The leadership that USA Cycling has demonstrated throughout the process in order to fuel excitement about pro cross country racing has been integral in developing a model which I believe represents an intelligent business decision. I'm hoping that the momentum we're creating encourages additional non-industry dollars to follow. USA Cycling has been a great partner in this endeavor and I'm looking forward to making the pro tour something to be proud of."
"The new ProXCT represents a tremendous step forward for professional mountain bike racing in the US," said Steve Johnson, CEO of USA Cycling. "I am very excited by the strong support of our presenting sponsor, Sho-Air, and the fact that we have seven great venues in the inaugural year of the tour."
Objectives of the inaugural tour include providing a sequence of international-caliber events for elite cross country racers, recognizing the best cross country teams and athletes competing on American soil, spotlighting America's top races that have made a commitment to host UCI-sanctioned events, and racing the level of competitive mountain bike racing in the US.
"After nearly a year of discussion and negotiations amongst our many mountain bike constituents and soliciting input from race promoters, athletes and industry representatives, we're thankful that Sho-Air and various venues has stepped up to support pro cross country racing in the United States," said USA Cycling's Mountain Bike Events and Program Director Kelli Lusk. "This series ensures that our pros will have a major season-long circuit which doubles as a dedicated and focused platform on which to showcase their talents."
With the inscription of seven UCI events, along with the 2009 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships, elite competitors will have eight opportunities to score UCI points at domestic races next season one more compared to 2008. The points are important in qualifying athletes for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
"Now that a nation's qualification for the Olympic Games is based on a four-year cycle, it's even more important we have UCI races in the US this far in advance of London," said USA Cycling's National Mountain Bike Development Director Marc Gullickson. "The ProXCT not only creates opportunity for our athletes here at home, but the consistent exposure to a highly competitive environment will raise the level of everyone's game."
Initial reactions of pro racers were positive. "That's really good news," said Lea Davison.
"With the US Cup, it seems like US mountain bike racing is alive and well," said Jeremiah Bishop.
An announcement for a gravity-based tour is expected in the coming weeks.
2009 USA Cycling Pro Cross Country Mountain Bike Tour (ProXCT)
March 29: U.S. Cup Fontana, California
April 19: Sea Otter Classic Monterey, California
May 31: Bump N'Grind Birmingham, Alabama
June 13: Carmichael Training Systems Sand Creek International Classic Colorado Springs, Colorado
August 8: U.S. Cup Mount Snow, West Dover, Vermont
August 15: Yankee Clipper at Windham Mountain, Windham, New York
September 26: USA Cycling Pro Cross Country Mountain Bike Tour Finals, Las Vegas, Nevada