A professional bicycling league is making its debut this summer, and Salt Lake is among the cities that will have a team.
The Salt Lake Stingers are scheduled to compete in the National Cycle League Western Division, along with San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Diego, Houston and Seattle. In the Eastern Division are New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami, Cleveland, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Philadelphia.The Stingers will host a July 1 race. Team General Manager Tom Napierski, Orem, says many of the races will take place down city streets. One of the planned races will be through the French Quarter in New Orleans. Napierski says details of the Salt Lake race haven't been worked out, but the race will likely either be in Salt Lake or Park City.
While Napierski says he hopes to eventually get local racers on the team, during this first year the riders will be from out of state. Because a lawsuit is pending between the NCL and the United States Cycling Federation, many racers, including locals, are hesitant to join the league. The NCL is the first U.S. pro cycling league and the USCF is the country's main amateur bicycling organization. The NCL has charged in the lawsuit that the USCF monopolizes all bicycle racing in the U.S.
"Things look real good for our league," said Napierski. "We think it is something the public will enjoy."
There are 20 regular-season races, 11 of which are scheduled to be aired on Sportschannel America, a cable network. Divisional championships will be July 15-16 and the national championship race on July 23 in Pasadena.
Napierski said racers will be paid $300 to $1,000 per race, plus travel expenses. Salaries wil be paid from television revenues and sponsorships.
"Bicycle racing has become a major league sport in the United States with this contract," said NCL Commissioner Peter O'Neil. "The National Cycle League is building the NFL of bicycling."
The Salt Lake team will be coached by Rick Denman, coach of the Velodrome in Los Angeles. Each team will have five riders. Races wil be 30-50 miles and last not more than 90 minutes. Points will be given to the top 10 finishers and extra points for sprints that are regularly spaced through the races.
The first race will be May 6 in San Francisco. If the league flourishes this year, Napierski says they will expand the schedule next season.