On Thursday, USA Cycling announced the 34 races that will comprise the third annual USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendars (MBNC) in the three disciplines of Cross Country, Gravity and Ultra-Endurance.
The calendars were intended to provide more accessible opportunity for top-level events in the United States that have not traditionally been part of the national series model. USA Cycling described the concept as "compatible with a variety of event models" and said it "provided professional and elite-level athletes with consistent, top-quality racing opportunities across all disciplines of mountain biking".
In 2009, the cross country calendar features a more logistics-friendly travel schedule and a higher cash purse minimum, meaning fewer total events. The calendar includes the new, proposed US Cup and more UCI races.
Consisting of 19 events across 13 states, the cross country calendar will kick off with the Fontana round of the US Cup in Fontana, California on March 20 and will once again stretch seven months until the last weekend in October when the Piney Hills Classic in Ruston, Louisiana. Over the course of the season-long calendar, athletes will accrue ranking points as they pursue overall titles in men's and women's individual and team categories - much like USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar model in road cycling.
Each of the 29 events on the cross country calendar is categorized according to the amount of overall ranking points available. Three category-1 events offer the most points - the Sea Otter United States Cup in Monterey, California, the US National Championships in Granby, Colorado, and the Mount Snow round of the US Cup in West Dover, Vermont. The cross country calendar includes two category-2 events, three category-3 races and 11 category-4 events.
The eight-event gravity calendar, which features downhill, 4X, super D and dual slalom events, will span five states, with similar category designations. There is one category-1 event and three category-2 events on the 2009 calendar. The category-1 event will be the National Championships, July 16-19, and the category-2 events include the Chile Challenge in Angel Fire, New Mexico, May 23-25, the Blast the Mass in Snowmass, Colorado, June 27-28 and the Whiteface 5K Downhill on August 30.
The ultra endurance calendar will consist of 62-mile races, marathons, eight, 12- and 24-hour races. The seven-race calendar will again kick off with the Mas O Menos 100K in Terlingua, Texas on February 4 and wrap up at the National Mountain Bike Oktoberfest in Davison, North Carolina on October 24-25.
As with the cross country calendar, the gravity calendar and ultra endurance calendar will also crown overall champions at season's end.
Thus far only one of the 2008 Mountain Bike National Calendars is complete. Melissa Buhl and Aaron Gwin took top honors in the Gravity Calendar.
For more information on the calendars, visit www.usacycling.org or stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a complete 2009 calendar, including MBNC and UCI events, coming soon.