The U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross will continue in 2012 after organizers secured funding to overcome a last-minute sponsorship shortfall this week. Trek Bicycles has stepped in as the series’ new title sponsor, with brands like WD-40 Bike, Clif Bar, SRAM and RadioShack stepping up to fill the void left when the series’ scheduled title sponsor missed its payment deadline last month.
“We’ve just this afternoon (Wednesday) reached that magic number that we needed to hit to make this year happen,” USGP director Joan Hanscom told VeloNews. “All of our venues are the same. We’ll be racing all four venues. We’re hoping to open up registration (Thursday).
“The competition’s going to be just like it always is.”
Hanscom decided to cancel the series early last week when faced with a significant funding shortfall. Her first phone calls to inform sponsors turned into pep talks, however, and with just 2.5 weeks until the series opener in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the eight-race series is officially on.
“It’s a scramble, but everything right now is on track to have the look and feel that it always does, save for a little less signage at the first race.” said Hanscom. “The thing that’s really amazing is that I had no idea of the gratitude… complete strangers have approached me and asked what they can do. People are saying they believe and that’s huge. I’m thankful for the industry for coming to us.”
A number of the series’ existing sponsors, as well as a handful of private donors, stepped in to cover much of the shortfall. Among them were new backers WD-40 Bike and RadioShack and longtime sponsors Clif Bar and SRAM. One of Hanscom’s first two phone calls was to WD-40′s Julie Gavrilis.
“We’re looking for ways to have an immediate impact on the sport and the USGP is the perfect venue,” Gavrilis told VeloNews. “My first reaction was, ‘No, we can’t let it go away.’ WD-40 Bike and I both recognize that this isn’t just another series; this is the series.”
Gavrilis and SRAM’s Alex Wassmann played connectors, bringing the series’ existing sponsors and potential new backers to the table. With deals in place for WD-40 and others to increase their support, Trek’s Matt Shriver reached out to Hanscom late last week and offered the Wisconsin-based company’s help. Trek will take over presenting sponsor duties for 2012.
“When we heard about the opportunity, that the USGP might not happen this year, that’s when we all passed the hat around Trek to make it happen,” Trek spokesman Eric Bjorling told VeloNews. We’re really excited to be able to do it… It’s a huge opportunity for us.”
Trek is launching a new cyclocross line this fall, as well as a team that is headlined by Katie Compton. With strong regional programs spread across the country, Bjorling said the USGP was the perfect venue for Trek to grow its fledgling cyclocross program.
“Our big goal was to make sure the plans that the USGP had laid out are able to go forward,” said Bjorling. “I hope that it demonstrates Trek’s deep-rooted commitment to competitive cycling, whether it’s the Cat. 4 guy that shows up on the weekend or the elite level.”
The same goes for WD-40, which is backing U.S. champion Jeremy Powers’ Rapha-Focus team and will host the bike wash stations at series events this fall.
“It became very apparent very quickly that we needed to do everything we could, within reason, to save the series,” said Gavrilis. “WD-40 Bike is excited to be in this industry and we’re coming in very purposefully with people that have a lot of history in cycling. We want to work with racers and mechanics on many different levels, from elite to amateur, and it’s important for us to be active in the events, not just passively support the series.”
The 2012 Trek U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross presented Greenware and WD-40 Bike opens September 22-23 with the Planet Bike Cup in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.