By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
USA Cycling finally released the National Racing Calendar (NRC) for the 2008 season and at first glance, not much seems to have changed. However, upon closer inspection, a few important changes are afoot.
A couple of races that were either part of, or scheduled to be part of, the USA Cycling Professional Tour in 2007 have returned to the domestic calendar. The Tour of Utah is back from a one year hiatus to better reorganize its financial position and should become a cornerstone of the battle for the NRC title. Chad Sperry has taken over as director of the event, after successfully directing both the Cascade Classic and Mt. Hood Classic.
Speaking of moving dates and the Cascade Classic, the race will now be held over the first week in August, just after the Tour de 'Toona, which means it will no longer conflict with the women's elite cycling nationals. And speaking of the ladies, a couple of events are making their women's categories both NRC and UCI races this year, including Mt. Hood and the Tour of Leelanau. Leelanau also moves from middle September where it had to compete with the Tour of Missouri to mid-May.
Women are definitely highlighted on this calendar as the first four races are for women only, starting with the Santa Rosa Women's Grand Prix in February. Also, the Sequoia Cycling Classic is back in mid-March but for women only, followed by the Susan G. Komen Cycle for the Cure race in Georgia.
The men begin their NRC racing at the Redlands Classic in April and have a steady flow of racing. The Mt. Hood race's new date comes over what used to be the Tri-Peaks Challenge, which is not on the calendar. But back on the calendar this year is the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, one of the longest running races in the country.
The calendar finishes off with a new race to the calendar, the Priority Health Cycling classic, a two-day race in its second year.