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Sunday, July 14, 2024

National Cycling League Wants To Be a $1B Business

  • The league’s inaugural race in April drew $20 million in revenue for Miami Beach, says NCL president Paris Wallace.
  • Cycling is seen as a “massive untapped market in the U.S” with $60 billion spent globally per year on the bike industry.
The NCL's inaugural race drew $20 million in revenue for Miami Beach, says president Paris Wallace.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Several stars are betting on cycling making inroads in the U.S. as the NBA’s Kevin Durant, ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard, and DraftKings CEO Jason Robins have made new investments in the National Cycling League.

The league’s inaugural three-race season continues August 13 at Denver’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of MLS club Colorado Rapids, and concludes with a race August 20 at Porsche Experience Center Atlanta. The NCL went to Miami Beach for its first race in April, which was sponsored by the local government.

“Miami Beach sponsored the event to a tune of almost $200,000 and that was based on having an incredibly positive event that brought 20,000 people to their area,” NCL co-founder and president Paris Wallace told Front Office Sports. “We also completed a survey with Clemson University to show the economic impact of the event we brought to Miami Beach and that report showed we brought over $20 million in revenue to the beach.”

The new funding follows the NCL’s $7.5 million seed round announced in December led by Will Ventures with investments from Durant’s current Phoenix Suns teammate Bradley Beal and NFL players Jalen Ramsey, Derwin James, Kevin Byard, and Casey Hayward.

“Our message is really resonating with the investment community. I think the total addressable market is incredibly attractive [with] cycling being the second-largest participatory sport in the world,” Wallace said. “50 million people spending $13 billion a year on cycling stuff here in the U.S., and 2 billion cyclists around the world spending $60 billion a year. A billion people watching cycling every year — it’s a massive untapped market in the U.S.”

The Warner Bros. Discovery-owned Global Cycling Network streams the NCL’s spectator events on YouTube. The league’s points system format condenses races into a couple hours in an effort to get Americans to buy into the sport that is immensely popular internationally. Races for the 10-team league generally span 2-3 km loops for approximately 25-30 laps.

“We’re turning city streets into some of the most epic coliseums that have ever been created,” said Wallace. “And in terms of the impact on the local community, only needing it for eight hours is pretty massive. So when F1 comes into town, they gotta shut down the streets for two weeks. When we come into town it’s one amazing day then it goes right back to being city streets with minimal disturbance.” 

“People don’t want to sit and watch an eight-hour baseball game anymore or two weeks of cycling,” added NCL CEO Andrea Pagnanelli. “What we’ve done with our events is really condense them to about two hours or two hours and 15 minutes. And every lap counts, you get points for every lap. There is a scoreboard, which is a first in cycling.”

Durant invested through his and Rich Kleiman’s Boardroom Sports Holdings that also has stakes in the MLS’s Philadelphia Union, the NWSL’s Gotham FC, Athletes Unlimited, League One Volleyball, TMRW Sports, Premier Lacrosse League, and Major League Pickleball’s Brooklyn Aces.

Howard is a “massive cyclist in Miami” and met Wallace on a bike ride. Sports betting is “definitely on our roadmap” for the NCL as it gains investment from Robins, the DraftKings CEO. 

“We believe that to build a great company, we want to have amazing investors have meaningful stakes to ensure they are aligned with our success and invest their time, energy, and resources in what we’re doing,” Wallace said. “The exposure, the advice, and then obviously the capital from these incredibly high-quality investors is really key to our strategy to continue to grow this thing into what we believe will be a multibillion-dollar business.”

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