US Pro Cup cross-country racing returns to Vail Lake, California
Kate Courtney, Haley Batten, and Gwendalyn Gibson will headline the UCI XCO race on April 2.
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After a three-year hiatus, the US Pro Cup will return to Vail Lake this year for an action-packed weekend of UCI cross-country mountain bike racing.
Last held in 2019, the 2023 US Pro Cup p/b Orange Seal returns to the calendar on March 31-April 2 in Temecula, California with pro and amateur short track (XCC) and XCO racing on a new course.
Additionally, all races will be broadcast live.
Read also: US Pro Cup returns to Fayetteville
“We are really excited to be back racing in California, especially after what happened in 2020 with the pandemic,” said Ty Kady, US Pro Cup race director. “We have a brand-new course layout for the UCI and amateur racers which we think will be a big improvement over 2019.
“Also, with the addition of a live stream broadcast of all three days of racing, we want to plant our flag in the ground that the US Pro Cup is back in SoCal where it all began.”
The races at Vail Lake present a rare opportunity for North American riders to collect precious UCI points before they begin their European World Cup campaigns. With the return of the California event, riders will have two of those opportunities this year as the US Pro Cup p/b Walmart follows in Fayetteville on April 12-16.
“Having early season points available in the US is really important leading into the World Cup season and with the Olympics around the corner again,” said Trek Factory Racing’s Gwendalyn Gibson. “It’s a chance to improve start position and get points to help make sure the US can qualify the maximum amount of Olympic start positions.”
Gibson, who won bronze in last year’s short track world championship, has a meaningful relationship with the venue, as well.
“For me it feels extra special to have a UCI race at Vail Lake,” she said. “It’s just an hour drive from my hometown and is the venue of one of the first races I ever competed in. Vail was SoCal League finals for all four years I was in high school and where I completed many 6 hr solo races and Kenda Cups. So, to come back to the community that helped me get my start and have the opportunity for early season points is such a blessing for me.”
New course layout
The Vail Lake venue has undergone a major facelift for the 2023 US Pro Cup.
In collaboration with former pro BMX racer Eric Carter and the Vailocity crew, the UCI course has been revamped to bring it more in line with a World Cup course in terms of distance, climbing, and technicality.
Carter’s gravity background is also represented in the course’s design and flow, as well as some of the new sections.
“Eric Carter has put in hundreds of hours into these new course layouts,” Kady said. “None of this would even be possible without him and his Vailocity crew at the helm. I just threw him UCI specs, new ideas, and he turned that into reality. We are really grateful for EC’s help.”
This year’s UCI XCO course will be 4.8km with 125 meters of climbing per lap. Punchy single track, tricky off-camber descents and a dual jump line will keep things exciting for the racers.
Star-studded women’s field
The event will kick off Friday, March 31 with pro and amateur short track races. Saturday, April 1 will feature all amateur cross-country races, while Sunday, April 2 will see the men’s and women’s C1 XCO races.
The women’s race on Sunday is one not to miss, with former world champion and Olympian Kate Courtney lining up alongside rising World Cup star Gwendalyn Gibson and Olympian Haley Batten.
All three women, as well as cross-country national champ Savilia Blunk, will also race in Fayetteville two weeks later before heading to Europe to begin their World Cup campaigns.
“The depth of U.S. racing is continuing to rise every year, especially in the women’s field,” Batten said. “And this is a fun event for us to race together, push each other, and prepare for the rest of the season!”