Betty Hasse, a cyclist and student at the University of Rhode Island, was organizing a race at her school when she got the call about three weeks ago.
Lauren LeClaire, CCB-Alpine Carbon women’s team manager, was looking for someone to replace a rider who suffered a concussion for the inaugural National Cycling League race on Saturday.
“She was like ‘Uh, so Miami, right?’ And I was like ‘Miami!’ And here we are,” said Hasse, who won five races for the team last year, including a third-place finish at the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championship in June.
Hasse, 20, will be one of the first competitors to compete in the inaugural National Cycling League race on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach.
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The new sports league hopes to grab the attention of cycling fans with mixed teams and a unique race format that’s more compelling than a five-hour race with a sprint finish. There will be four US races and a $1 million purse distributed to teams based on their performance.
“Our goal is really to grow cycling and bike racing around the world, with a new format that will really appeal to the next generation of fans,” NCL co-founder Paris Wallace said ahead of the premiere. race.
“We’re not European cycling. We’re really making up what that means in America. And it’s faster, it’s harder. It’s, you know, a different set of rules that we think will really complement what traditionally happens in European cycling.”
What will an NCL race look like?
Women and men will race separately for their teams, and their combined scores make up the final race day total – unlike a traditional race where the first person to cross the finish line wins.
The race will last approximately one and a half to two hours, intended to captivate cycling enthusiasts as well as younger audiences with shorter attention spans.
“You have these super interesting, spectator-friendly, exciting, fast-paced races that are just tight, and there’s so much action built into a small segment of space,” Hasse said. “It’s just super crazy and so much fun to be in this different space. It’s not like a long, old-fashioned road race.”
Where will the NCL races be?
After the Miami race on Saturday, the NCL will race in Atlanta on May 14, Denver on August 13 and Washington, where runners will run on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Washington Monument, on September 17.
Wallace said at least a dozen cities around the world have attempted to bring the format to their city.
“Short, fast and interesting races in the most iconic blocks of the biggest cities in the country – and possibly around the world,” Wallace said. “It’s fast, furious and exciting, and really designed for that, this next generation that has to hit every, you know, 60 seconds.”
How can you watch NCL races?
The NCL has a broadcast agreement with Discovery and the Global Cycling Network (GCN) to show the race both nationally and internationally.
Another way the NCL hopes to connect with fans is through a partnership with Wahoo Fitness, which allows fans to run through the metaverse on their smart trainers at home.
Teams will qualify or determine their order for race day by racing a male and female representative through a 1-mile loop on a Wahoo Kickr stationary bike.
“We call it the 4G fan experience, and we think it’s really going to revolutionize and grow incredibly quickly like pickleball or lacrosse,” Wallace said.
How did the NCL start?
Wallace, an entrepreneur who founded two health-tech companies, became interested in cycling as a COVID-19 transplant, moving from Boston to Miami during the pandemic.
With co-founder David Mulugheta, one of the most prominent NFL player agents as president of team sports at Athletes First, and venture capitalists Will Ventures, Founder Collective, Collab Capital, Impellent Ventures, NCL secured a $7.5 million seed last December. .
The NCL also prides itself on being the first sports league to have men and women participating equally, to be founded entirely by minorities, and where minority and female team owners are in the majority.
“How many cyclists (are there) without a team to cheer on, right? We all played basketball growing up, we want to be like Michael Jordan or LeBron James,” Mulugheta said. “So creating a sport (league) where now these people growing up as cyclists have heroes to watch was super important to us.”
NCL also has famous ties to the NFL
Four of Mulugheta’s football clients are also investors: Miami Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward and Titans safety Tennessee Kevin Byard.
The NCL gives them the opportunity to experience the level of ownership of a sport, instead of being an employee or an endorser. And the price range to get into the mix is considerably lower than buying a franchise in a major sport.
“Historically, as minorities, we haven’t had the opportunity to own, and it’s so late in the game that it’s just prohibitively expensive for most people,” Mulugheta said. “So going into something like this from the ground floor, I think that’s the only opportunity for some guys to have that chance, and I think those guys took full advantage of it.”
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and FOX Sports personality Emmanuel Acho are also investors.
What are racers and team owners hoping to get from NCL?
The opportunity to compete and make yourself known.
LeClaire, who considers herself the owner and trainer of CCB-Alpine Carbon after 10 years as a rider, views her organization as a development team. She encourages her runners, most of whom are still in college, to continue their education while helping them achieve their racing aspirations. Three of LeClaire’s former riders from last year are now riding with the Denver NCL team this year.
“Obviously the goal is for these extremely talented women to be able to become full-time professional cyclists and make it their day job. And you know, right now in the United States, I think the NCL is giving us a look at what that might look like,” LeClaire said.
“If things like the NCL continue to move the sport forward, as we hope, then there will be more jobs and more places for them. For them to be able to earn their professional living in the United States without having to to race for a European team and do it here at home.”
What is the NCL betting on?
Cycling fans and the popularity of this sport in the world.
The 2022 Tour de France reached 37 million viewers in Europe with more than 400 million hours watched, the most since 2015, according to Endurance.Biz.
In America on USA Network, 510,000 viewers watched the Tour de France on July 14, the most since 2010, and 554,000 viewers on July 15, the most since 2009, according to Comcast and NBCUniversal.
The domestic and foreign numbers give NCL hope that its product has the potential to grow.
“Our goal is to become a global sport,” Wallace said. “We don’t want to be an alternative, but a complement to the people who watch professional cycling races around the world every year.”