Following up on October's announcement of a new season-long mountain bike initiative, USA Cycling published a list of 53 races that will comprise the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendars, which are modeled after the National Road Calendar (NRC). The calendar is divided into three sub-calendars: cross country, gravity, and ultra endurance. Over US$200,000 in prize money is on the line.
The calendars are intended to provide more opportunities for top-level US events that were not part of the previous NORBA national series model. More high profile events should also give elite athletes more consistent, high-quality races. Over the course of the season, athletes will accrue ranking points at each race. Overall titles will be awarded in mens and womens individual and team categories much like the NRC.
Consisting of 29 events across 17 states, the cross country calendar kicks off March 25th with the Chickasaw Trace Classic in Columbia, Tennessee, and stretches six months to the last weekend in October with the Piney Hills Classic XIV in Ruston, Louisiana. In between, the series visits notable events such as the Sea Otter Classic and the six National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) races.
Eight races will offer UCI points, including all the NMBS series races, the Greenbriar Challenge, and the Maplelag MTB Spring Opener. UCI points are the primary factor in determining how many start positions the US will receive at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and if the past is any indication of the future, those points will play a role in the selection of individuals for the US Olympic team. The national championships at Mount Snow will also award UCI points.
Each of the 29 events on the cross country calendar will be further subcategorized according to the amount of overall ranking points available. Five category-1 events will offer the most points toward the series the Sea Otter Classic, the Snowshoe MTB Festival in West Virginia, and the NMBS stops in Phoenix, Park City, and Banner Elk. In addition, the series will feature three category-2 events, seven category-3 races, and 14 category-4 events.
The 18-event gravity calendar, which features downhill, 4-cross, super D, and dual slalom, will cover 11 states. Top category gravity events include the Sea Otter Classic, the Chile Challenge, the Blast the Mass, the Mountain States Cup races in Telluride and Keystone, and the Rock MTN G3 Series Race.
The ultra endurance calendar, which consists of 62-mile races, marathons and 12- and 24-hour races, will include six events.
"Riders will have the chance to compete at national-level events across the country where consistent competition, organization, and prize purses are offered. Promoters will have the opportunity to be a part of a national calendar and earn the recognition they've long deserved. There are so many quality events throughout the US, but most of these events didn't have a higher level to graduate to under the previous model after they obtained AMBC (American Mountain Bike Challenge) status. Now, these calendars give those races something to aspire towards," said USA Cycling mountain bike eastern regional manager Kelli Lusk.