The National Cycling League today announced it has raised $7.5m in seed financing — said to be the largest private investment in U.S. professional cycling ever - from a group including a cast of NBA and NFL stars.
Launching in 2023, the National Cycling League (NCL) is a championship-style race series consisting of closed-course criterium races in major cities across the country with virtual races alongside them.
Similar to North American professional ball sports, each host city will be home to a team. The teams will consist of 16 riders, eight male and eight female. While the men and women will compete in separate events, they’ll be equally compensated and everyone will earn points toward earning a slice of the $1 million prize purse.
The League’s founder and CEO, Paris Wallace said the investment will accelerate the launch of the criterium racing tour as well as the two teams.
“We will field two, co-ed city-based teams, bringing together world-class domestic and international racing talent; the goal is for our teams to instantly become the top teams in U.S. pro racing next year,” Wallace said in a statement.
Notably, the NCL was dreamt up by people who don’t come from the cycling world. Wallace is the founder and former CEO of the health and technology company, Ovia Health, and his co-founder, David Mulugheta, is a highly successful sports agent for the National Football League (NFL), where most of the financial backers are coming from.
The “oversized” round of seed financing was led by Will Ventures and included venture capital funds like Founder Collective, Collab Capital and Impellent Ventures.
Sports personalities including NFL Analyst Emmanuel Acho, basketball All-Star Bradley Beal and American Football pros Jalen Ramsey, Derwin James, Kevin Byard and Casey Hayward are also all investors
“We have looked at other leagues, including ones in cycling, but the NCL was the first with the team, the plan and the values to win the space, while building a venture scalable business model,” said Isaiah Kacyvenski, former NFL linebacker and co-founder of Will Ventures.
The $7.5m investment will also support the development of the NCL’s virtual platform, which is meant to deliver “interactive access to pro athlete biometric and performance data for consumer applications in real time.”
The riders competing in the NCL will be outfitted with wearable technology during the race allowing for a virtual competition to be held at the same time. In other words, fans will be able to ride alongside and compete with the pros in real-time via a virtual platform.
The NCL will launch sometime in 2023 with 10 teams of professional cyclists competing in a series of criterium-style races in Miami, Atlanta, Denver and Washington D.C.
A similar city-based bike racing league existed back in the late 1980s. This series was made for TV and targeted the short-attention-span Americans sports fans.
The format was a blend between a criterium and a points race in that the peloton completed a set number of laps over the course of race periods with a 10-minute intermission in between each period. On every third lap the riders sprinted for the top five places to receive points for their teams. The team with the most points at the end of the race won.
Most of the participating riders belonged to traditional road cycling trade teams outside of the League and while there was initial excitement around the League, it never truly took off.
Will this all-new National Cycling League be more successful? Cycling Weekly will be following along closely and bringing you the latest developments.
- The newly formed National Cycling League: a gimmick or the future of American bike racing?
- The National Cycling League announces a $1 Million dollar prize purse
- Inaugural US National Cycling League could see fans virtually racing the pros in 2023
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1