The National Cycling League announces a $1 Million dollar prize purse

First details of host cities, prize format and teams revealed

Lion's Den criterium Race
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The National Cycling League today announced it will offer a $1 million prize for its 2023 debut season, to be contested by ten teams across the United States. 

Hoping to reignite America's cycling fandom, the National Cycling League (NCL) announced the formation of a “professional sports league of the future” in August with a unique approach to American bike racing. 

The league will consist of a championship-style season, with the NCL organizing a series of closed-course criterium races in major cities across the country. 

Similar to the franchise systems we’re familiar with in most North American professional ball sports, the NCL will be location-based with each chosen city being home to one team, consisting of both male and female riders.

The NCL also announced today the first details of who will be competing for the one-million-dollar-purse, said to be the largest prize purse in U.S. crit racing history, and how. 

Also read: The newly formed National Cycling League: a gimmick or the future of American bike racing?

The Teams

There will be 10 teams, 2 NCL specific teams and 8 invited teams, who will compete in four NCL invitational races.

Each team 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 the big money prize.

Unlike traditional scoring in which the first person across the finish line at the end of the race nets the dub, the NCL will have a points-based scoring system in which points are earned after each lap. The NCL hopes that this system will create a more competitive and exciting racing throughout the entire event and series.

The NCL promises a rider roster of Olympians, National Champions, former World Tour racers and top professional and development riders. Additionally, the NCL is currently welcoming rider and team applications to find the “superstars of tomorrow.”

“The biggest stages draw the brightest stars,” said David Mulugheta, co-founder of the NCL.

“The cycling talent is out there, and great athletes and big stories are yet to be discovered. With today’s announcement of a historic prize purse coupled with the decision to host public races on city streets, professional cycling is poised to achieve levels of inclusion and community integration that stadium leagues can only dream of. We’re building the stage today for the superstars of tomorrow.”

The team and rider applications are available on the NCL website.

Four races in Four Cities and Online

The initial NCL events will take place in Miami Beach, Fla.; Atlanta, Ga.; Denver, Colo.; and Washington, D.C as well as online on a virtual platform. 

These events will take place in the heart of each host city and are meant to showcase the top criterium talents in the U.S. In addition to bike racing, the events will also feature musical talent, family activities and a wide range of food options with the aim of “creating a welcoming festival-like atmosphere for current and future cycling fans alike.”

Where the NCL further diverges from the criterium racing we know today, is that the riders will be outfitted with wearable technology to stream data live during races, which will exist in both the real and virtual world at the same time. In other words, fans will be able to ride alongside the pros in real-time via a virtual platform.

The Largest Prize Purse in U.S. Crit Racing History:

In addition to the overall series prize purse of $1 million, each of the four NCL invitationals will feature individual prize purses.

At the end of the four-event series, the top 5 combined men’s and women’s teams will each take home a share of the $1 Million prize purse with the breakdown as follows:

- 1st place: $700,000
- 2nd place: $150,000
- 3rd place: $75,000
- 4th place: $50,000
- 5th place: $25,000

“Creating the next generation sports community starts with valuing the athletes and their contributions to the fan experience,” said Paris Wallace, a serial entrepreneur, and co-founder and CEO of the NCL.

“The $1 Million purse is just one component of a comprehensive infrastructure designed to equitably support and reward top male and female professional athletes. But ultimately, sports leagues thrive by enthralling audiences, and the NCL’s team structure, new competition format, and innovative in-race technologies create excitement, non-stop action, and genuine connections between athletes and fans.”

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Anne-Marije Rook
North American Editor

Cycling Weekly's North American Editor, Anne-Marije Rook is old school. She holds a degree in journalism and started out as a newspaper reporter — in print! She can even be seen bringing a pen and notepad to the press conference.

Originally from The Netherlands, she grew up a bike commuter and didn't find bike racing until her early twenties when living in Seattle, Washington. Strengthened by the many miles spent darting around Seattle's hilly streets on a steel single speed, Rook's progression in the sport was a quick one. As she competed at the elite level, her journalism career followed, and soon she became a full-time cycling journalist. She's now been a cycling journalist for 11 years.