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The first-ever National Cycling League race kicks off in Miami, in the heart of South Beach on April 8, as part of a four-city, $1 million cup prize. M&F has everything you need to know ahead of race day, including an exclusive interview with co-founder, Paris Wallace, to give you the inside track on a revolutionary new concept to an activity that dates back to the 1800s.
The NCL will be the first pro cycling league anywhere in the world. It is also the first league to have gender-equal teams competing on the scoreboard. Then of course, there’s that huge prize purse, the largest ever for cycling: a lofty one million dollars. The NCL is also reportedly the first professional sports league to be owned in the majority by females and minorities. As the action gets going, teams will race across iconic city streets with a new scoring system that awards points to riders after every lap, not just ranking the first person to cross the finish line.
Points are awarded to the first three riders across the finish line on laps 1-29 as follows: 1st (3 points), 2nd (2), and 3rd (1). Points are also awarded to the first 3 riders across the finish line on lap 30 as follows: 1st (9), 2nd (6), and 3rd (3).
All of the 10 competing teams must have a minimum of four and a maximum of six riders per gender. Each race will be comprised of 30 laps, and each lap is 1-2 km. There is a separate race for men and women. The winner of each male and female race will be determined by the team that accumulates the most points among its riders during the race. Then, the winner of each men’s and women’s event is determined by the team with the highest combined number of points between their divisions.
Fans can watch the races live and in person for free, or stream the events on the Global Cycling Network, GCN+ service. Following on from April 8 in Miami will be races in Atlanta (May 14), Denver (Aug 13), and Washington D.C. (Sept 17).
M&F talked exclusively to one of the NCL’s co-founders, Paris Wallace, to find out how the NCL will shake up the world of cycling.
How did your passion for cycling come about?
I grew up cycling in Northern California and really fell in love with it at an early age. From there, I then went to school in the northeast and became a serial entrepreneur, founding and exiting two women’s health businesses, Good Start Genetics and Ovia Health. I moved to Miami at the beginning of the pandemic and was incredibly impressed by the riding here and even more so by the cycling community here. Miami has one of the largest and strongest cycling communities in America with hundreds of people riding together on a daily basis.. and thousands of people on the weekend!
How did the concept of the NCL take hold?
My co-founders and I started working on the idea of building a league about a year ago. Cycling is the second most popular participatory sport in the world with 50-plus million riders in the U.S. and two billion around the world. Despite its reach, shockingly, there was little to no professional fandom here in the U.S. and no formal league. We talked a lot about how you get ownership, gender equity, and sustainability embedded from the start. Taking these values and visions for a new type of league, we started talking to a variety of investors, professional athletes and entrepreneurs who were interested in funding the idea to bring it to life. And that is how the NCL was born!
$1 million is an awesome prize purse. Is that the biggest within in the industry?
The $1 million purse is one of the largest ever to be offered in cycling and the largest to be offered in U.S. cycling. It’s gained the interests of cyclists and cycling teams from around the world who will be competing in the NCL cup across the four races in 2023.
In the National Cycling League, men and women are equal. How exciting is this going to be for racers and spectators?
The national cycling league is the first league of its kind to have true gender equity, Equal pay for equal play, meaning that the teams are truly co-ed. They train together, they work together and, on race day, their contributions are valued equally. The teams have equal budgets too. On race day, we think it’s going to be incredibly inspirational to see co-ed teams competing against each other with team member working to accomplish a shared goal of victory.
There’s a novel scoring system too. Why do you think this needed to be changed, and how could this shake up some of the potential results?
Our new scoring system, where we give out points every lap, is meant to upend and speed up traditional cycling. This will make our race faster, more exciting, and a lot more accessible because fans will easily be able to understand what’s going on by looking at the scoreboard. With expected races of 45 minutes to an hour, we want to attract a younger audience that maybe doesn’t have five hours to watch a race for one sprint finish, but would watch 30 sprint finishes in 45 minutes. We’ve developed the technology behind this that will allow us real time scoring and it will allow our fans an unrivaled experience.
How can fans keep track of all the action?
We’ll be streaming the event live through our broadcast partner, GCN+. You can also see the live scoreboard on our website at nclracing.com. Athletes will have wearables tracking their performance and we’ll be sharing that data from that. In future races, we even envision that athletes will be participating in the metaverse from home, while seeing the course live for a very immersive experience!
Do you think the new format will require teams to strategize differently?
This new format is going to completely change the traditional cycling strategy. Two big things are different. The first is that we are awarding points every lap, so there’s going to be 30 sprint finishes and secondly, we’re allowing substitutions for the first time in cycling history. This means that in each lap, a team can substitute one rider for another rider and get fresh legs into the peloton. Since it’s never been done before, teams are likely to be strategizing real time and then again after the first race in Miami to improve team performance. But what I expect, is that every lap will be contested at the finish line. It’s going to be incredibly exciting as there’ll be action going on at the finish line and the pits almost continually.
Do you think the new format will require teams to train differently?
The new format will certainly change what type of training and what type of athlete is winning bike races. NCL style racing is going to be much more sprint oriented than traditional racing. With the average race between 30 and 40 miles, it’s much shorter and much faster than traditional bike racing. I expect that over time we will see bigger athletes who are stronger sprinters dominate the league, while more endurance-oriented athletes will be attracted to longer road races!
See you in Miami!