Pro racer Frank McCormack of Leicester has a new jersey this season, and the screaming red-haired she-devil pictured on the Boston Banshees blue-checked uniform becomes a blur during races that are "probably harder than any USCF crit I've ever done,'' he said.
The Banshees are a new team this year in the National Cycle League, a 6-year-old enterprise that's winning grudging respect for building up bike racing's audience with hourlong, made-for-TV criteriums featuring city-based squads. The idea is that fans will root for the home team, an element key to advertisers that's missing from the European-style races governed by the U.S. Cycling Federation.
The Banshees will race against Houston and New York teams at noon next Sunday outside the Bayside Expo Center in Boston, their only home race of the season. NCL squads from Amsterdam, London and Toronto will face off at 2 p.m.
McCormack, 25, and his brother, Mark, 24, are among 10 New Englanders and one Texan on the Boston roster. Both McCormacks used to ride for IME Healthshare, based in Plymouth.
Frank moved from Plymouth to Leicester this month for a job with Hot Tubes, a Worcester bike frame building and painting business. NCL pay is decent, he said -- most riders get $200 to $1,000 per race, and expenses are covered -- but there are only a handful of races each season.
Between NCL competitions, the McCormacks race in USCF events with sponsorship from Landry's/Hot Tubes or Carver Cycle, and Tufts Associated Health Plans will sponsor Frank in the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic over the Fourth of July weekend.
NCL racing is demanding "because it's not who crosses the finish line first, it's the team that accumulates the most points. You have to stay very active the whole time,'' said McCormack, who placed third in the national road championships in 1990 and has won stages at Killington, New England's premier stage race.
Each NCL race consists of two halves, 15 laps each on a 1-kilometer course, with sprints for points every three laps. Each team has five riders in the race at a time.
"You can't hesitate to do the racing,'' said McCormack, who typically averages 25 to 30 mph on his carbon fiber Aegis. "If a guy attacks, you can't sit back and think about it, or you lose out on the points.''
A new rule this year, allowing each team to hand-sling one fresh rider into the race during each half, has worked to the Banshees' advantage. Racing against Houston and Los Angeles last month in LA, Frank McCormack was in a breakaway with two rivals, and teammate Jason R. Snow of Buzzards Bay was tiring as he tried to close the gap. Snow, the league's MVP in 1992 when he rode for Miami, put his hand out as he reached the pit and launched Peter K. Vollers into the race. Vollers caught the break and picked up valuable points.
Miami has won two races this season, and Boston has placed twice, "so we've got to catch up,'' said Vollers, 27, another former IME team member, who serves as the Banshees' manager. Last year Vollers, who lives in Plymouth, Vt., rode for the NCL's Pittsburgh Power, the team that won the league's world title. His USCF sponsor is O'Neil's bike shop in Worcester.
Another Boston rider is Tyler Hamilton from Marblehead, last year's national collegiate champion and a member of the U.S. national team. Hamilton, 23, finished sixth in the Tour DuPont prologue this year and 29th overall.
Others on the team include:
Green-haired, tongue-pierced, tattooed Adam "Jazzy'' F. Myerson of Northampton, who Vollers says "shines on TV -- he really puts people at ease." Paul Curley of Taunton, who piloted a tandem with blind stoker Carlos Talbot of Miami to victory in the USCF tandem exhibition road race two years in a row. Barton B. Knaggs of Austin, Texas, who rode for the NCL's London team last year, the team that Sarah Fulkerson of Boston managed before she bought the Boston franchise. Douglas C. Ziewacz of Springfield, another former IME rider. Greg Swinand of Brighton, who grew up in Shrewsbury and also rides for O'Neil's.
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