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Todd Wells (Specialized) is a good bet to win the US Pro XCT series title
Seven race venues and dates selected
The US Pro Cross Country Tour (US Pro XCT), run by USA Cycling, will return in 2011 with seven mountain bike races. The 2011 national series includes seven rounds, two more than in 2010 and the same number as in 2009. It will include three rounds in California and one each in Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado and Montana; however, for the second consecutive year, the series will do without an eastern round.
The 2011 series will kick off with a pair of US Cup Triple Crown races in California. One of two new additions to the calendar, the US Cup Triple Crown - Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California, will mark the unofficial start of the domestic mountain biking season on March 12. For its second stop, the US Pro XCT will move slightly south as the US Cup Triple Crown - Fontana City National will continue the calendar on March 26 in Fontana, California. Fontana has been a part of the Pro XCT since its inception.
Next up will be the Sea Otter Classic, which is part of the series for its second consecutive year. Sea Otter's elite cross country races on April 16 will once again operate at the UCI category 1 level, offering maximum ranking points to top riders.
The Pro XCT will next move south to Lance Armstrong's ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, as the Mellow Johnny's Classic will host round four. This round is scheduled to take place on April 30 - a bit earlier in the year to avoid the extreme heat suffered at the 2010 event.
The nation's top pros will head north to contest the Sand Creek International, a category-two event for 2011, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Set in the picturesque foothills of Pikes Peak, the Sand Creek course will likely play a deciding role in the overall Pro XCT's outcome.
The Subaru Cup in Mt. Morris, Wisconsin, on June 25 looks to be one of the calendar's most exciting race experiences. Part of the well-established Wisconsin Off-Road Series (WORS), the Subaru Cup traditionally attracts thousands of enthusiastic fans.
The Missoula Montana XC, new to the US Pro XCT, will host the final contest of the season. Set for July 24, the category one race should offer another dynamic atmosphere with a course in close proximity of downtown Missoula.
"The 2011 Pro XCT will expand slightly over the 2010 version, offering one of the best calendars of quality UCI mountain bike races we've had in many years," said USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson. "We are committed to our long-stated goals of providing athletes with consistent top-level competition opportunities, increasing exposure for mountain biking domestically, and maximizing US start spots at the sport's highest stages; and the Pro XCT national calendar provides a sustainable platform to help accomplish these goals."
The UCI points up for grabs at each Pro XCT event are important for helping the US qualify mountain biking start spots for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, as well as determining the start order at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. The men's and women's overall US Pro XCT champions will also automatically qualify a spot on the American squad for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
Races in the US Pro XCT series may include a short track, but they are not required as part of each round's competition, according to USA Cycling.
The series will highlight some of America's top races and recognize the best cross country teams and athletes competing on US soli. In order, for teams to earn points toward the overall team title, they will have to be registered as UCI Trade Teams or as a USA Cycling Mountain Bike Domestic Pro Team. The Pro XCT will rank the top male and female riders in the overall standings, provide leaders' number plates, Pro XCT medals, and a guaranteed cash purse for each race.
When asked why there were no rounds on the east coast for 2010, USA Cycling's Andrea Smith replied, "None applied. Kelli (Lusk) reached out to organizers as we’d love to include more – they certainly weren't left-off intentionally."
The 2010 US Pro XCT was won by Todd Wells (Specialized) and Georgia Gould (Luna).
2011 USA Cycling Pro Cross Country Mountain Bike Tour
March 12: Round 1 - US Cup Triple Crown Bonelli Park, San Dimas, California
March 26: Round 2 - US Cup Triple Crown Fontana City National, Fontana, California
April 16: Round 3 - Sea Otter Classic, Monterey, California
April 30: Round 4 - Mellow Johnny's Classic, Dripping Springs, Texas
June 18: Round 5 - Sand Creek International, Colorado Springs, Colorado
June 25: Round 6 - Subaru Cup, Mt. Morris, Wisconsin
July 24: Round 7 (finals) - Missoula, Montana XC, Missoula, Montana