Organizers cancel U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series

Organizers have shut down the nationwide ’cross series over financial shortcomings, but the events could carry on

Photo: Wil Matthews

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Organizers of the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross confirmed on Friday that the series would discontinue, effective immediately.

In a call with VeloNews, series owners Joan Hanscom and Bruce Fina said that they had transferred rights to each of the series’ eight race days to local organizers after a sponsorship search fell short for the 2013-14 season.

“It’s really just the fact that everybody wants a bigger product every year, more expansion and media exposure, but we’ve lost some sponsors this year and as a result we find ourselves with a sponsorship gap,” Hanscom told VeloNews. “If it has to go away, we feel that we’re putting them in the hands of good, quality people.”

Hanscom and Fina, the promoters behind bringing the 2013 elite world championships to Louisville, Kentucky, were the management behind the nationwide cyclocross series, which would have celebrated its 10th anniversary this fall. Since 2004, the series welcomed many of the world’s elite riders, including former world champions Bart Wellens and Erwin Vervecken, as well as the top U.S. riders like series champions Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, Ryan Trebon, and Georgia Gould.

“We just barely scraped by [in 2012] with Trek jumping in and saving the day,” said Fina. “While Trek was wanting to continue this year, there were other sponsors whose marketing plans changed and were changing gears. … We don’t want to put everyone through the same heartache again, ourselves included.”

The eight-race series spanned four weekends from September to mid-December. Fina confirmed that the four race weekends — the Sun Prairie Gran Prix in Wisconsin, Deschutes Brewery Cup in Oregon, Derby City Cup in Louisville, and Fort Collins Cup in Colorado — would remain on the calendar, with management transferred to local organizers.

Fina said he wanted to stem any concern over the 2013-14 U.S. racing schedule.

“Most important thing to the benefit of American cyclocross and the riders especially … I know there are some riders that will get panicky … is that they’ll still have those race weekends,” he said. “[The organizers] have learned from the best people in America how to run a race. We don’t want widespread panic because we’re losing eight races. Those races will take place.”

When asked how local organizers could hope to carry on their races when the series was unable to find a sustainable solution, Fina and Hanscom cited the overhead inherent in moving staff and supplies around the country and the larger media product that comes with a season-long series.

“The difference will be that these guys will have a one-week or 10-day product. They’re out there getting sponsorship for a week-long media product where we were getting sponsorship for a four-month product,” said Fina.

The series struggled with sponsorship in the last two years, with title backer Exergy Development Group failing to fulfill its commitment to the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Trek, Clif Bar, and WD-40 Bike were among the sponsors to step in and save the series in late August 2012. With money on short supply, Fina was largely absent from the races in 2012, putting more responsibility on Hanscom, who was subsisting on sponsor-provided food.

“That’s not an easy way to live. I literally ate sponsor oatmeal because I had it,” said Hanscom. “I can’t keep living that way. That sounds selfish. … The only external pressure I feel is that I hate to disappoint people.”

Multiple-time series champion Gould was disappointed to hear the news on Friday at the Sea Otter Classic, but was unclear on the ramifications of the series’ cancellation.

“We all want to go to races, at least I want to go to the races where all the fast people are going, because I want to race against the fastest people and get the best racing,” she told VeloNews. I’m bummed because I think the USGP series was the most professional series of off-road racing in the U.S. — ’cross or mountain bike. … Those guys did such a good job and it was always the highlight of my season to race in their races. They value women’s racing and they’ve been a leader in the equal prize money thing.”

Logan VonBokel contributed to this report.

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