One of the biggest changes to the USA's racing scene for 2012 is the creation of the National Criterium Calendar, and with it the change of date of one of the biggest races, the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium from August to April.
Cyclingnews spoke to the race's director Thad Fischer, who explained the shift was due to a date conflict with the UCI 2.1-ranked Tour of Elk Grove.
"We've always had a challenge avoiding conflict with other events, and part of our master plan was to find a spot on the calendar that didn't overlap with another race," Fischer said.
Last year Fischer moved his race up one week earlier when the Tour of Elk Grove became a UCI race and shifted to a date which conflicted with his Charlotte, North Carolina criterium.
For 2012, the late-summer weekends were busy with national-level races, with the July 28 Grand Cycling Classic, Tour of Elk Grove on August 3-5, and Tour of Utah on August 7-12.
"It was a challenge to find a slot that worked both in USA Cycling's calendar and the city of Charlotte's calendar, but we finally settled on April 14. The heat and humidity in North Carolina in August can be pretty atrocious, so the new date will help a lot on the ground. The spectators will be more comfortable and it will help the volunteers who are out there from dawn until after midnight, too."
While the race is still a bit of an island in the calendar with no adjacent events nearby, Fischer sees the race as the beginning of a Southeastern US swing for the criterium racers.
"The Sunny King Criterium is a week after us, and then you've got Athens Twilight and the USA Crits Speedweek," Fischer pointed out. "Nothing is perfect, but this date was the best option."
USA Cycling has broken out the criterium calendar from the stage-race-and-road-race-only National Racing Calendar, allowing ProTeams and Professional Continental riders to legally compete in the criteriums, but Fischer doesn't see the change having much impact on his event.
"We've always had the participation of the professional teams, and we strive to give value to our sponsors by holding a quality race with a quality venue and a quality prize list.
"It's important to be a part of the NCC, because some of the teams' sponsors use the rankings as a sort of 'report card'. We're also remaining part of the USA Crits series and we are fully supportive of that, too."
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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