The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis will take on the NRC season opener in Redlands this weekend. For many people, this begs the question: What is the NRC and what does it mean?
The National Racing Calendar is USA Cycling’s national race series, which, essentially, helps determine the top team racing a full season in North America. The NRC also determines an individual national champion, with riders accruing points for race wins and placings during the season.
How it Works
Every race – whether it’s a multi-day stage race like Redlands, or a one-day race, such as the Dana Point Grand Prix two weeks after Redlands – is assigned a ranking, generally based on the difficulty of the race. Stage races can be ranked anywhere from 2.1 (hardest) up to 2.8, while one-day races can go from 1.1 up to 1.8.
Based on their ranking, races are assigned a set of points that riders can earn over the course of a stage race, or for where they finish in a one-day race. The higher-ranked the race, the more points there are on offer.
Let’s take a stage race like Redlands as an example. The four-day Classic is ranked 2.3, so it’s on the harder side. The rider who wins the overall championship of the race earns 160 points, while the 2nd and 3rd place finishers earn 120 and 96 respectively. Riders who finish in the top 30 overall also earn points in descending value.
Over the course of those four days, riders can also earn points for winning a stage, or placing in the top three of a stage (for a 2.3 ranked race; 2.2 and 2.1 ranked races go four and five deep for stage finishes). The race leader of a 2.3-ranked race also earns 10 extra points each day.
So let’s say, for instance, Rory Sutherland of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis, who won the NRC Individual title in both 2007 and 2008, finishes 3rd in the opening prologue stage Thursday, wins Stage 2 and becomes the race leader, and then holds the lead until the end. He’d earn a total of 220 points:
- 160 points for the overall win
- 25 points for his stage win
- 5 points for his 3rd place
- 10 points for each day he was in the race lead (30 points)
Determining the leader of the Individual NRC classification is pretty straightforward: whomever has the most points is leading the competition. Determining the Team classification is slightly more complicated. USA Cycling takes the top five riders in the Individual classification from each team and totals their points. Whichever team has the highest point total is leading the competition.
This is definitely a season-long competition and both the Individual and Team classification winners often aren’t determined until the last race or two of the season. UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis will contest most, if not all of the NRC races this year, which includes nine stage races and 18 one-day races.
In 2009, Sutherland finished 3rd in the Individual classification, while teammate Karl Menzies was 4th. Last year, the previous incarnation of the team finished 3rd, after winning the Team title every year from 2004-2008.