Inaugural US National Cycling League could see fans virtually racing the pros in 2023

The brand new professional cycling league has received investment from NFL stars as it races in real-time and in the metaverse

Scenes from the 2022 Tulsa Tough
(Image credit: Drew Coleman)

The National Cycling League (NCL) has announced the launch of its inaugural professional cycling league in the United States, set to be introduced in 2023 with an immersive fan experience at the forefront of its creation.

The professional cycle league will consist of a championship-style season, with the NCL organising a series of closed-course 1-2km criterium races in major cities across the country. It is currently working with USA Cycling on sanctioning the league for 2023. 

Designed with the fan experience at its core, the new cycling league will offer an immersive experience for fans. Riders' wearable technology data will be made available during races, while the races will also exist in both the real and virtual world at the same time. 

This will allow the NCL to offer real-time action of races for fans in the metaverse, where they can participate in riding the course with the league's best riders, too. 

Diverging from traditional points scoring, the NCL revealed a new system will award points after each lap, attempting to create more competitive and exciting racing throughout the entire event. The championship winning team will be awarded what the NCL is claiming will be the largest prize in the history of crit racing.

The NCL has received strong financial support from industry-leaders in the sports, business and entertainment sectors, with NFL stars, reporters and venture capitalists all investing in the new league due to the opportunities cycling has to grow in the United States. 

Investors include Founder Collective, Collab Capital, Jalen Ramsey of NFL team Los Angeles Rams, Derwin James of the NFL's Los Angeles Chargers, Kevin Byard from Tennessee Titans, Emmanuel Acho from Fox Sports, and Michele Roberts - the former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.

"I've been in the sports industry for 15 years and this is the most exciting opportunity I've seen," NFL agent and co-founder of the NCL, David Mulugheta, said.

"Beyond the substantial number of people who bike, the ability to build the league from the ground up allows us to get the business, the values, and the ownership structure right. This is why so many professional athletes, entertainers, and people of influence are so excited about what we are building."

Also designed to ensure gender equality, teams in the professional cycling league will be composed of men and women. They will receive equal pay and equal resources across the season. 

Obviously, the men and women will race separately on race days, but their results will count equally towards the team's total score in the championship. 

"Our mission is to create the next generation sports community by reimagining sports ownership, fan participation, and social impact," Paris Wallace, co-founder and CEO of the NCL, said. 

"The NCL will be the first major professional sports league that is majority-minority and female owned and values men's and women's athletic achievements and contributions equally."

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Staff Writer

Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.