An Open Letter to Verge Series Participants
Over the next month, you’ll start to see more and more press for the Verge Series (as well as the new Shimano Series). As most of you know, we were forced to make a lot of changes to the structure of the Verge Series for this year, as well as the schedule. The two biggest changes you’ll see are that there is no Verge points series for the Elite men and Women, and that there are 15 races included in the Series this year.
For the former, the points series for the elites will of course be replaced by the new Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series, and will include Gloucester, Providence, Northampton, and Warwick (which are also Verge Series events). It’s the latter change, the increase in total number of races, I want to primarily address here.
In the‘90s when Tom Stevens was the president of the “New England Points Series,” the series consisted of every single race in New England. Every race, all season long, with no conflicts. As I got involved as Tom’s assistant, we noted that having every race included in the series was leaving our riders tired at the end of the season by they time they got to nationals, because they felt obligated to chase every point. In ’99, we boiled it down to just the best 6 or 8 races, and focused on making them better. In 2000 when I took over the Series, we introduced the first UCI events. By 2002, every race in the New England Series had reached UCI status, and the current format was solidified.
When other races wanted to step up and make their race UCI, we included them in the Series, and that’s how the Series began to grow again. Eventually we had other, national Series' overlapping with our races, saw that there were too many conflicts, and opted to split them. This is why events like Gloucester and Providence were not always part of the Verge Series, even though they were big UCI events.
With the advent of the 8-race Shimano Series, which essentially grew out of the need to create something new for the elites in the wake of the Verge Series being suspended by the UCI, we knew immediately that we could not abandon the Verge races who were still putting on UCI events but were not part of the Shimano Series, or even saw one of their days downgraded to “National Calendar” status from UCI status. It would have been very, very easy to look at Williston, VT, New Gloucester, ME, and Sterling, MA, and say, “hey, sorry guys! You’re on on your own now!”
Of course, there’s no way we could do that to these organizers. Each one of those races worked hard, put their necks and wallets on the line, and put on top notch events. With each one having to deal with the penalty of losing one of their UCI days, and not having an elite series already, how could we let them stand on their own? They are New England classics. They are OUR races. And they deserve our support.
When a race organizer steps up and applies for UCI status, it’s not just important for Elite riders, but also trickles down all the way to the Cat. 4’s. Up to this point, being a UCI race sent a sign to every rider that said there would be a minimum standard of quality being met at the event, and it would apply to all racers. There’d be a level of quality in the course, officiating, results, and overall event production and organization, which makes the race attractive to everyone. Other races have been able to achieve this successfully over time as well (Suckerbrook, Canton, Ice Weasels, Shedd Park), but even those races have benefited from seeing the standard set by the UCI events, and then aspiring to meet that standard without needing to be UCI. Again, this is how the UCI events have benefited the entire community.
So in this transitional year, we decided as a group that the best way to support the New England race organizers who took the risk and made the commitment to host UCI-level events was for all of them to be included in the Verge Series. We need to reward and support these organizers for the commitment they’ve made over the years, and help them get through this, strange, split season, while they decide what the best course of action for their races will be in 2012. To abandon them in 2011 is not what our scene is about.I know all of you won’t be able to make all 15 events, and I know it’s a lot of racing. I know that it means the Verge Series dominates a lot of the calendar. Of course, there are worse problems we could have than 15 national and international quality cyclo-cross races in New England. I’m asking you, the riders, to essentially work with us in this transition year that was not of our making, or by our own choice. We know you’ll go to Gloucester, Providence, Northampton, and Warwick. But continue to support Williston, New Gloucester, Sterling, and the Nor’easter, which is moving to Burlington this year. Additionally, continue to support Verge, who has stood by us morally and financially for so many years now, and remained committed to supporting New England ‘cross even after we suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous governing body decisions against us.I expect the Series and its individual races to continue to evolve, and for 2012 to again look different than 2011. My first goal is to make sure this season is as successful as possible, for as many riders and organizers as possible, and to do right by all the people trying to make New England ‘cross the success that it has become.See you all in September.
Verge Series President