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USCX Cyclocross Series launched for fall but ‘dreams don’t pay bills’

Stephen Hyde (USA) Cannondale Cyclocrossworld and giving chase to two riders off the front.
Stephen Hyde won the US Cyclo-cross national title three consecutive years (Image credit: Dejan Smaic / SportifImages)

A quartet of US-based, UCI cyclo-cross events have joined forces to launch the USCX Cyclocross Series this fall, spotlighting eight pro races for elite men and women as well as nine amateur races for junior men and women in the 17-18 age category.

Rochester Cyclocross on September 25-26 will serve as the opening round of the USCX Cyclocross Series in Rochester, followed by Charm City CX the next weekend, October 2-3, in Baltimore. Jingle Cross in Iowa City, a three-day event from October 15-17, will serve as the location for expanded junior events. The series concludes at Kings CX on October 23-24 in Cincinnati.

All four events carry UCI designations for elite and junior (17-18) races, including C1 and C2 events for the pros. Jingle Cross includes the final of three stops for UCI World Cup racing in the US, all held between October 10-17.

The new series provides points, not prize money, which was last provided in 2017 with the Sho-Air US Cup-CX series. That year, with sponsor Sho-Air and a supplemental crowd-funding campaign, a $30,000 payout was split evenly between men and women, with winners receiving $12,500 each. Races in Cincinnati and Baltimore were part of that series as well.

“Winning the CX Cup was huge for me. That check really made a dent in my ability to live a normal life,” said men’s winner Stephen Hyde, who won the US cyclo-cross title three times. He now races with Steve Tilford Foundation Racing team and was proud to earn the big payout four years ago. “I am happy to see a series put together and really grateful for whatever comes of it. I think until there is a payout for the applicable fields, it doesn't hold as much weight though.

“It's hard to find cash sponsors. So that's not a criticism, I get it. But in the end, a ‘Pro’ is someone who makes their living by racing their bike. Period. You can take all the free tires and sunglasses that you want and influence away, but no living, no Pro.

“So I will certainly show up and race to win. However, I will certainly not make anything a priority over what makes the most sense for my growth and development as a rider unless it pays to be there. It's simple.”

In addition to the UCI-designated races, there are a total of 18 amateur categories identified across the series, from masters and open divisions to junior races for ages as young as 13-14, which will provide points for overall winners.

“The concept was to integrate several US events into a new series for North America, something that racers, teams, spectators and sponsors have been requesting for years,” series co-owner John Meehan, who is the executive director of Jingle Cross, said in a press release. “This series is not just for the pros, but for many amateur categories, masters and juniors.”

The series is a points-based tabulation to determine overall winners, which will be recognised after final events at Kings CX on October 24. Athletes must register for each event individually, with each race tabulating and posting series status at the conclusion of each weekend of racing.

The top-earning woman of the US Cup-CX series was Kaitie Keough (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and she said the US needs a series and pointed out that it could provide a much-needed spotlight for the sport.

“This series will be great to showcase the top riders. I think it’s really neat that the series also has racing options for the amateurs as well. Although, there are still a handful of details we don’t yet know about, such as, media coverage and prize money. The organizers have mentioned that more details will be provided soon,” said Keough.

There have been several attempts over decades to recognise cyclo-cross racers in a US national, or widely regional, series going back to a New England Points Series in the 1980s. Then in the early 2000s the USGP and Northeast Cyclocross Series took root, with the USGP ending in 2012 but NECX hanging around with UCI-sanctioned races from New York to Massachusetts.

“It's exciting to see a series be formed again on a national stage. The recognition of juniors + amateurs in addition to the pro's is a great step, and I hope it will encourage more participation from younger riders and newer riders alike,” said Ellen Noble, who finished third overall for women in the 2017 SHO-AIR US Cup-CX series. “Growing up in New England, the NECX series [and several other names] was a huge motivator for me as an amateur and professional, and I hope this series has a similar impact.”

2021 USCX Cyclocross Series announces four stops

Inaugural USCX Cyclocross Series has four stops in 2021 (Image credit: USCX Cyclocross Series)

All eight elite races on the USCX are part of USA Cycling's Pro CX calendar, which is another points-based group of racing, 19 days across nine states, for professionals beginning September18 in Virginia and concluding November 21 in North Carolina. However, ProCX is just that, praise for the pros.

I am all about a series. I think people really like following a story and that helps people engage and want to be involved with the sport. I thought that was very evident in 2017 when there was that payout. I however, got second, so I didn’t get the $12,500, Stevie got that, but it was still sick to get paid. For us pros that is a huge incentive,” said Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano Cyclocross Team). 

“As you know cycling isn’t a big money maker so every bit helps and chasing those cash purses is something that peaks every top athletes interest and influences season schedules.

“The fact that the series has trickled down into the junior ranks is awesome. For juniors that don’t have the means to make it to all the races on the calendar this gives the ones with little support some direction in which races to put their resources towards. As for masters racers, I think that just helps promote races in the different regions.”

In 2020 the majority of cyclo-cross races took a hiatus due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and only a handful of elite riders opted to endure strict travel protocols to compete in Europe. The USCX looks to capture a new spark for racing in the fall for all levels of athletes.

Noble added she was hopeful for the new spark could trigger future prize money. 

"I hope the first year of this series could be seen as a proof of concept for a possible sponsor of the series in the future. I look forward to being a part of it."

Scott Page, who is the executive director of Rochester Cyclocross and partnering with Meehan to launch the series, noted that part of the selection process for events included assessment of course terrain, reputation of each established event and geographical location to make travel practical between venues.

“Our overall goal is to produce world-class events showcasing the amazing sport of cyclocross – giving these incredible athletes the platform they need,” added Page.

Organisers said a higher emphasis would be placed on the C1 events over C2’s for the UCI races. Points provided in the series for the UCI Junior 17-18 races for men and women will count equally.

Safety protocols for COVID-19 coronavirus will be established at each venue dependent upon the requirements and guidance of each individual state. A full description of the series and links to event registration is provided at uscx.us.

USCX Cyclocross Series 2021

  • September 25 – Rochester Cyclocross (UCI C1)
  • September 26 – Rochester Cyclocross (UCI C2)
  • October 2 – Charm City Cross (UCI C1)
  • October 3 – Charm City Cross (UCI C2)
  • October 15 – Jingle Cross (UCI C2)
  • October 16 – Jingle Cross (amateurs only; World Cup)
  • October 17 – Jingle Cross (UCI C1)
  • October 23 – Kings CX (UCI C1)
  • October 24 – Kings CX (UCI C2)