The U.S. road racing calendar has for years required teams to crisscross the continent multiple times throughout the six-month racing season. Tough travel schedules, convoluted points tallies and competing events may become a thing of the past, though, as USA Cycling looks to revamp the National Racing Calendar over the next two years.
The revamped NRC will take shape over the next four months, said Micah Rice, the USAC’s managing director of events. “We know that the NRC needs an overhaul and so we’re taking a look at that and how all the different pieces fit,” said Rice.
Rice, the former manager of the Jittery Joe’s team, announced the overhaul intentions Saturday morning during the team managers’ meeting at the professional criterium championships in Illinois. The impromptu discussion came just days after the U.S. Pro Board of Trustees met to suss out a number of potential changes to the national points series.
“Some ideas came out of that and are being discussed,” said Rice. “I briefly discussed a few things with the pro team managers at the meeting (Saturday) and gave them a general idea of some ideas that we’re throwing out there.”
Response from teams was mixed. Kelly Benefit Strategies director Jonas Carney said that what is good for USA Cycling is good for the teams and that the updates Rice discussed would make a positive impact on U.S. racing. Fly V Australia boss Henk Vogels and UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis manager Mike Tamayo, whose teams should move up to Pro Continental registration for 2011, thought that the changes were good for U.S.-focused teams, though smaller teams would see the most benefit.
The process began last fall when the national federation asked for suggestions.
Travel schedule is key
Among the issues that USAC is addressing is the zigzagging national schedule, which in July took teams from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to Bend, Oregon, to Elk Grove, Illinois, within the span of four weeks. “We’re going to have to figure out the flow and do better at that and that’s on us,” said Rice.
USA Cycling plans to release the 2011 NRC schedule in mid-October, as usual, two weeks after the UCI calendar is finalized. Rice, who manages the NRC and national championship events, among others, said that the new provisions would take hold over a two-year period. Over the coming months, event promoters will play a central role in determining the new NRC program. “This calendar is theirs,” said Rice.
The great compromise revisited
Also on the docket, and of higher profile concern, is the entry of Pro Continental teams in national level events. BMC Racing, along with ProTour outfit Astana, was limited to a three-rider team at the Tour of the Gila last year when officials enforced the long-ignored UCI rule 2.1.009. BMC received exemptions for subsequent events, on a case-by-case basis, and will start next week’s Tour of Utah under such an agreement.
“That’s a big issue right now, especially because we’ve got two teams that will be moving to Pro Continental next year,” said Rice, who is optimistic that the federation can resolve the issue.
New points system
Finally, according to Rice, a new points system will likely emerge from the revamping process. “The structure of NRC points is difficult and we’re making some changes on how NRC team points are gained and who gets points for whom,” he said. “What happens when a Vera Bradley rider guest rides for another team at Fitchburg? Who gets those points?”
Rice planned to discuss the changes with promoters in November before finalizing any changes.