By Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor
The US Cup mountain bike race series will happen in 2009 Cyclingnews confirmed last Saturday. The future of the sport in the US looks brighter after several months of uncertainty and behind the scenes work reconciling the diverse interests of pro racers, amateur racers, teams, promoters and sponsors.
After the demise of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) at the end of 2008, Team Sho-Air's Scott Tedro proposed the US Cup as a re-invention of the series. Although many in the industry expressed support, sponsorship dollars were slow to follow and the future of the series was in doubt.
"The US Cup is a reality and is established," said Tedro to Cyclingnews. "Race venues have been selected, promoters have signed on, and it's ready to go. We'll have a six-race East Coast series and a six-race West Coast series with a final in [Las] Vegas."
Tedro described the US Cup as having evolved over the past few months into a kind of co-op supporting domestic mountain bike racing. "It will promote regional racing and competition," said Tedro. But it's not just about amateurs and regional pros. "A deal has been hammered out with USA Cycling that will bring an exciting pro element to this series." Details on both the pro and amateur aspects of the series are expected soon.
The momentum behind the US Cup includes support from organizers of major events around the country, and the committee organizing the series will be operating under the following mission statement: "The US Cup has established a national mountain bike series that creates synergy between race organizers and it pro and amateur athletes. These mountain bike events will showcase our nation's finest riders while fostering the development of new talent in a way that makes economic sense for organizers and participants alike."
What that means is that the US Cup's governing body will assist and subsidize various aspects of races in the series to create a similar look and feel and to reduce costs for promoters and racers. The US Cup will provide medals, number plates and a website for posting series points. "We'll do things to help minimize the costs to promoters," said Tedro. Race swag, t-shirts and water bottles are other items that will promote the series consistently throughout.
"The promoters have agreed to be part of it because they love mountain biking and these are tough economic times," said Tedro. Some road cycling and mountain bike events and teams across the US have been struggling to stay afloat despite the current economic climate.
Sponsorship commitments and hard work by key supporters have transformed the series concept into a reality. "Kenda has come onboard as the title sponsor, so there will be the Kenda Cup East and the Kenda Cup West. Hayes Bicycle Group has stepped up to provide a major rider rewards program," said Tedro. "The series also could not have happened without the support of Specialized." Finally, he credited USA Cycling's Kelli Lusk, Mountain Bike Events and Programs Manager, with doing much of the heavy lifting to support the series.
Tedro's Sho-Air company has financially contributed to the co-op; however, the company is not an official sponsor. "I have not put our name on anything. It's not about Sho Air," said Tedro, whose team sponsors accomplished riders like Sid Taberlay and Manny Prado. "It's about getting all organizers together to create a racing league of the best venues and best promoters to make it easier and more cost effective for the end of the user."
"It's been a tough road," said Tedro after reflecting on months of effort to bring about the series. "A deal has been worked out with USA Cycling and that was very difficult due to the multiple personalities involved and some of the pro teams."
"But USAC and I have worked through it," he said optimistically. "I'm very excited and very happy and think the country deserves this."
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for more details on the 2009 US Cup.