The inaugural Cross After Dark will begin its four-weekend series at the 5th annual UCI C1-ranked Clif Bar CrossVegas and Crank Brothers Lady Lucx held on September 14 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in conjunction with the industry trade show Interbike. Series promoter Brook Watts confirmed top-level men and women to contest the twilight cyclo-cross series including US National Champion Todd Wells (Specialized).
"This is a new series and the inspiration was the growing number of ‘cross after dark," said series promoter Brook Watts. "A number of us like-minded promoters felt like it was a spectacle and we wanted to take advantage of it as a trend that we want to continue. We want to grow this into the future. We go cautiously by starting with four races and we want to expand to other parts of the country in the future."
CrossVegas will likely be the most well attended event of the series as well as offering the highest number of UCI points and prize money. The series will continue with round two at UCI C2 StarCrossed held on September 17 in Seattle, Washington. Top notch ‘cross specialists will head east to contest round three's UCI C2 Gateway Cup held on September 21 in St. Louis, Missouri. The series will conclude on the west coast at UCI C2 SpookyCross held on October 15 in Irvine, California.
"CrossVegas is just never ending," Watts said. "Clif Bar being the title sponsor gave it real stability and has a heritage of supporting ‘cross races and that has allowed us to improve in some areas and infrastructure. I think we will have some really good racing as a result of some of the rivalries that are developing among the teams. It will be a really fun event and every year it continues to stand on its own feet."
The series will include an overall leaders jersey and prize list for both men and women. Watts is also promoting equal prize money for both men and women at two events of the series CrossVegas and Gateway Cup. Crank Brothers will sponsor the Lady Lucx women's event at CrossVegas.
"Crank Brothers stepped in as a sponsor of the women's race Lady Lucx, which has allowed us to pay the top five women for CrossVegas," Watts said. "It is our goal to work toward complete equality on the prize list. Last year we had equal prize money for the podium places and this year it is the top five. We will phase it in and work with other promoters and the UCI 'Cross Commission. Over the course of three years we want to get to the point where the prize lists are completely equal. It's a start."
Clif Bar CrossVegas and Crank Brothers Lady Lucx starters
CrossVegas typically attracts a stellar field of domestic and international riders that are on the hunt for preliminary UCI points. Watts confirmed Under 23 World Champion Lars van der Haar and Bart Aernouts (Rabobank), Ben Berden and Tim van Nuffel along with two-time world champion Bart Wellens and teammate Rob Peeters (Telenet Fidea) who will participate in the first two rounds of the new series.
"I've been preaching the benefits of the early season US races to the Europeans for some time, I think we're at the tipping point now where they see the value in making a trip over here to compete against our top pros who start the season well prepped," Watts said.
"I like all new things, so I am really looking forward to this trip to the US and to Las Vegas for cyclo-cross," said Telenet Fidea manager Hans van Kasteren. "I am in it because I support everything that develops the sport and makes it more popular."
Watts is also expecting a top level field of riders who race for domestic teams that include Wells, along with Ryan Trebon (Felt Bicycles), Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus), plus the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com trio of Tim Johnson, Jamey Driscoll and Christian Heule among others.
US National Champion Katie Compton (Rabobank) has not yet confirmed her start at the Crank Brothers Lady Lucx CrossVegas. Other strong international contenders will include former Belgium National Champion Joyce Vanderbeken and French National Champion Caroline Mani. Domestic riders will include Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash (Luna) and Amy Dombroski, among others.
Cross After Dark is one of three larger series held this year in the US, in addition to the US Grand Prix of Cyclocross (USGP) and the inaugural New England Pro Cyclo-cross (NEPCX).
"I don't think we will have as many people following the entire series but many will do a couple of the events," Watts said. "I think it means we need to think about evening out the travel a little bit. We are talking about schedules for next year to try and figure out how we can maximize participation of all our races in the early season, which is when we attract the good riders to come over here before they have to go back and fulfill their commitments with GvA or World Cups and Superprestige."