The inaugural National Cycling League race begins April 8 in Miami, in the heart of South Beach, as part of a $1 million, four-city trophy 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 an inside look at a revolutionary new concept of an activity that dates back to the 19th century.
The National Cycling League sets precedents
The NCL will be the world's premier professional cycling league. It is also the first league in which teams of equal standing compete on the scoreboard. Then of course there is this huge prize money, the biggest ever in cycling: a whopping one million dollars. The NCL is also reportedly the first professional sports league to be majority-owned by women and minorities. As the action gets underway, teams will race down the iconic city streets with a new scoring system that awards points to drivers after each lap, rather than just ranking the first person to cross the finish line.
What are the ground rules of the NCL?
Points will be awarded to the first three drivers across the finish line on laps 1-29 as follows: 1st (3 points), 2nd (2) and 3rd (1). Points will also be awarded to the first 3 riders across the finish line on lap 30 as follows: 1st (9), 2nd (6) and 3rd (3).
All 10 competing teams must consist of a minimum of four and a maximum of six riders per gender. Each race will consist of 30 laps and each lap is 1-2 km long. There are separate races for men and women. The winner of each male and female race is determined by the team that collects the most points among its drivers during the race. Then the winner of each men's and women's event is determined by the team with the highest total points between their divisions.
Here's how you can follow the National Cycling League
Fans can watch the races live and in person for free, or stream the events on the Global Cycling Network, the GCN+ service. After April 8 in Miami, the races will follow in Atlanta (May 14), Denver (August 13) and Washington DC (September 17).
M&F spoke exclusively to one of the NCL's co-founders, Paris Wallace, to find out how the NCL will disrupt the cycling world.
How did your passion for cycling come about?
I grew up cycling in rthern California and fell in love with cycling at an early age. From there I went to school in the rtheast and became a serial entrepreneur, starting and exiting two women's health companies, Good Start Genetics and Ovia Health. I moved to Miami at the beginning of the pandemic and was incredibly impressed with cycling here and even more so with the cycling community here. Miami has one of the largest and strongest bike communities in America with hundreds of people riding together daily... and thousands of people on the weekends!
How did the concept of the NCL prevail?
My co-founders and I started working on the idea of creating a league about a year ago. Biking is the second most popular participatory sport in the world with over 50 million riders in the US and two billion around the world. Despite its reach, there was shockingly little to no professional fandom and no formal league here in the US. We talked a lot about how to integrate personal responsibility, gender equality and sustainability from the start. We took those values and vision for a new kind of league and began speaking to a variety of investors, professional athletes and entrepreneurs who were interested in funding the idea to bring it to life. And so the NCL was born!
$1 million is great prize money. Is that the biggest in the industry?
The $1 million purse is one of the largest ever offered in cycling and the largest ever offered in US cycling. It has attracted the interest of cyclists and cycling teams from around the world who will be competing in the four races of the NCL Cup in 2023.
In the National Cycling League men and women are equal. How exciting will that be for racers and spectators?
The national cycling league is the first of its kind with true gender equality, equal pay for equal play, meaning teams are truly mixed. They train together, they work together and on race day their contributions are equally appreciated. The teams also have the same budgets. We believe that on race day it will be incredibly inspiring to see coed teams compete and team members work towards the common goal of victory.
There is also a new rating system. Why do you think this needed to be changed, and how might this shake up some of the potential outcomes?
Our new scoring system, where we award points every lap, aims to turn traditional cycling on its head and accelerate it. This makes our race faster, more exciting and much more accessible as the scoreboard makes it easy for fans to understand what's going on. With expected races ranging from 45 minutes to an hour, we want to appeal to a younger audience who might not have five hours to watch a race for a sprint finish, but would see 30 sprint finishes in 45 minutes. We have developed the technology behind it, which allows us real-time scoring and offers our fans an unparalleled experience.
How can fans keep track?
We will broadcast the event live via our transmission partner GCN+. You can also view the live scoreboard on our website at nclracing.com. Athletes will have wearables that track their performance and we will share that data from that. For future races, we even envision athletes participating in the Metaverse from their homes and seeing the course live for a very immersive experience!
Do you think the new format will require a different strategy from teams?
This new format will completely change traditional cycling strategy. Two big things are different. First, we're awarding points every lap, so there will be 30 sprint finishes, and second, for the first time in cycling history, we're allowing substitutions. This means a team can replace one rider with another rider each lap, bringing fresh legs to the peloton. As this has never been done before, teams will likely strategize in real time and after the first race in Miami to improve team performance. But what I expect is that every lap is driven at the finish line. It will be incredibly exciting, because there will be almost non-stop action at the finish line and in the pits.
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 wins bike races. NCL style races will be much more sprint orientated than traditional races. With an average race of between 30 and 40 miles, it's much shorter and much faster than traditional bike races. I expect over time we'll see bigger athletes who are stronger sprinters dominate the league while more endurance oriented athletes are drawn to longer road races!
See you in Miami!