A million dollar prize: NCL puts cash where its mouth is as pros sign up
“The biggest stages attract the brightest stars,” David Mulugheta said when announcing the purse, competition structure and host cities for the upcoming National Cycling League. If there’s anyone who knows the big stages and shining stars, it’s the NFL agent-turned-race organizer who brokered American football deals totaling over $2 billion, and the resume of Mulugheta is the kind you hope for the person trying to revamp American critical racing. .
Here’s the headline: a $1 million scholarship. Teams will be made up of men’s and women’s teams (compete separately but points scored count towards a combined total) and first place will win $700,000, second place $150,000, with decreasing amounts thereafter.
Ten teams will compete, two formed by the NCL and the other eight by national candidates, from USA Cycling Domestic Elite to UCI ProTeam and Women’s WorldTeam. The venues for the four race rounds are Miami Beach, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; and Washington D.C.
Simple enough. The organization announced that Olympians, national champions and former World Tour riders would all be involved. Whether that means America’s best UCI-registered outfits will be in attendance or NCL teams have enlisted a bunch of two-wheeled legends in hopes of big payday, it looks like we’ll be getting a mix of riders that we recognize in a new, supercharged format.
“Creating the next-generation sports community begins with valuing athletes and their contributions to the fan experience,” is the NCL’s stated goal, according to fellow co-founder Paris Wallace, former CEO of a women’s health startup and currently the entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School.
Fan experience is key. If you’re building something and people aren’t coming, there are ways to burn millions of dollars that take a lot less effort. So far, real-time scoring that awards points after each round is planned to make the event accessible, while wearable technology will give insight into what athletes are going through in the middle of the competition. On the pitch, public racing on the city’s street circuits will hopefully get roadside fans out in droves.
Ultimately, it will be the quality of racing and competition that will decide the fate of the NCL. But so far, everything is going in the right direction for the majority minority sports premier league. The prospect of a final sprint showdown between teams vying for $750,000 or $150,000 in prize money is something quite foreign to bike racing and definitely worth listening to.
“The NCL is currently working with USA Cycling to sanction the 2023 season,” the latest announcement concludes, as organizers pursue their dream of discovering the “1,000 of Rusty Woods” just waiting in North America to shoot the hand, or legs, in bicycle races.