Introducing the 2024 American Criterium Cup

The American Criterium Cup returned for its third season in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the opening night of the three-day Saint Francis Tulsa Tough omnium. Over the course of the summer, the ACC calendar will include eight stops across the country this summer as America’s fastest cyclist will battle for points, prize money, and bragging rights at some of the most prestigious events in the United States. 

Many of the events on the calendar are series and omniums, however, only one race day at each stop will be designated as an ACC event. For some events, like the Bailey & Glasser LLP Twilight Criterium in Boise and the Audi Denver Littleton Criterium, all the action will focus on one night as standalone events. For other stops along the way, namely the two multi-week omniums of the Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland and the newly minted Chicago Grit, the ACC competition is just one of several thrilling races. 

Nevertheless, with the added stakes of a cohesive summer-long season, there is bound to be something special at each of the eight races that will define the tally come the final race at the Bommarito Audi West County Gateway Cup on Labor Day weekend. 

As the ACC begins in earnest, here is a full preview of what to expect from the races, the series, and who will be lining up along the way:

What is the ACC? 

The American Criterium Cup was originally conceived in 2022 as the premier criterium series in the United States. The series, which has partnered with USA Cycling to serve as the premier professional road race calendar in the United States, will see a total prize purse of half a million dollars divided equally between genders across the series races with $100,000 of winnings awarded to the top team and riders in the final ACC standings. 

While the series is important, it is still nothing without the riveting criteriums that make up the calendar of eight races that will be the stage for the thrilling racing all summer long.

Saint Francis Tulsa Tough – Friday, June 7 – Tulsa, Oklahoma

The crowd always comes out to Tulsa’s Friday night show in the Blue Dome District

The ACC kicked off with the opening criterium of the infamous Tulsa Tough Criterium series in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While the race’s marquee event is Sunday on “Cry Baby Hill,” Friday night’s Blue Dome criterium offers a similarly stacked race with the teams and riders hitting their summer peak as the temperature turns up both literally and figuratively. What’s more, with huge crowds that come out for the Friday night festivities, the atmosphere is as electric as any race in the US. 

The race which is centered in Tulsa’s revitalized downtown “Blue Dome” district is a fast twilight criterium defined by its eight turns set up as two separate rectangles over a 0.7 mile, flat course. With the energy from the crowd, and the inertia of massive pelotons, the racing is flat out with crashes, attacks, and a massive sprint crescendo under the lights in Oklahoma. 

Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland – Saturday, June 22 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Tour of America’s Dairyland is the longest of the ACC series, but packs a punch with the Downer Avenue criterium bringing lots of money and excitement to the eleven days of racing

The Tour of America’s Dairyland is the first of the two multi-week criterium series in the summer with 11 races across southeast Wisconsin around the Milwaukee area. The race series has been going strong since, but the crown jewel of the race – the Downer Avenue Criterium – has been running for 45 years and is the perfect platform for a flat-out race in one of Milwaukee’s historic neighborhoods. 

The course is straightforward, with a lap that is essentially a triangle with two back-to-back turns coming right before the finish line, but will be hotly contested as ACC points begin to establish a pecking order in the hunt for the overall series standings. Additionally, the race will be filled with mid-race cash preems totaling $10,000 up for grabs and split evenly between the men’s and women’s races. 

Bailey & Glasser LLP Twilight Criterium – Saturday, June 29 – Boise, Idaho

Boise is a lightning-fast race that typically provides a big chance for the fastest finishers in the bunch

Boise Twilight is a standalone event on the calendar as it offers one night of racing around the Idaho capitol building. Nevertheless, only having one night of racing consolidates all the excitement and energy into one evening in Idaho. What’s more, the race always sets the bar in terms of speed as the race is historically the fastest on the professional calendar. 

That speed, which comes from the thin dry air of Boise paired with the wide sweeping turns of the course, makes Boise one of the most difficult courses to create a breakaway that will stick. This makes the race the ultimate sprinters classic among the ACC events. While it isn’t a guarantee, the final sprint and battle between the leadout trains is one of the standout spectacles of the entire series. 

LHM|CC Salt Lake Criterium – Sunday, July 7 – Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake is the second part of the Mountain West back-to-back with Boise the previous weekend. Photo: Sawyer Pangborn sawyer@sawyer.bike

The Salt Lake City Criterium is the newest of the top criteriums in the United States at five years old, however, the race has made its impression on the racing scene with exciting venues in a great cycling city. The Salt Lake race is one of three events weekends on the ACC calendar with two professional criteriums, including the Sunday ACC race in the Salt Lake suburb of Sandy. 

The course in Salt Lake is a lap around a stadium with fewer technical features but more of an emphasis on the speed of the race. The course is noteworthy for its long straightaways and sweeping bends as it finds its way around Real Salt Lake’s MLS stadium. While conventional wisdom suggests that course is conducive to a sprint, it all depends if teams are willing and able to control the attacks for a sprint finish at the end. 

IU Health Momentum Indy – Friday, July 12 – Indianapolis, Indiana

The Indy Crit brings racing to the heart of the country with an exciting five-corner crit in Indianapolis

The Momentum Indy Crit is one of two professional criteriums that descend on the Indiana city in the middle of July. The Mass Ave Crit is one of the newer criteriums on the professional circuit and provides key points in the overall battle for the series. With the city’s rich and storied cycling history as Major Taylor’s hometown and the base for key players in the cycling industry like SRAM, Zipp, and Silca the Indianapolis stop is a can’t-miss opportunity for many of the professional teams and racers on the American circuit. 

The Friday ACC race is a 0.6 mile five corner “bow tie” course that offers tight corners on turn one and turn five. It is a course for the punchy sprinters as the technical nature of the circuit demands a high level of handling skills. That technical nature stretches the peloton to the breaking point with sprints often being decided by a significantly diminished peloton in both the men’s and women’s events. While it isn’t one for a breakaway necessarily, it is an attritional race nonetheless. 

​​Chicago Grit – Saturday, July 27 – Chicago, Illinois 

Chicago Grit is one of the most popular events of the summer as the race brings the peloton’s best to one of America’s most vibrant cities

Chicago grit is a new name for one of the most well-established criterium series in the country, the Intelligentsia Cup. With 10 races around the greater Chicago area, the series offers a second of two big race opportunities in the Midwest to race for over a week around one centralized city. To add to the charm, Chicago serves as the largest city on the ACC circuit which gives the racing trip the ability to be more with opportunities to explore the city during off-hours over the ten days of racing around the city. 

The main event at the Chicago Grit will be the American Criterium Cup stop at the Lake Bluff Criterium on the second Saturday of the series. The course is an intriguing six-corner lap around the Chicago suburb of Lake Bluff with a few narrow roads, a couple of tight bends, and many opportunities for breakaways to steal off of the front. While each of the races has its own charm, Lake Bluff is a consummate neighborhood block party near the end of a long block of racing in the heat of the Chicago summer.

Audi Denver Littleton Criterium – Saturday, August 3 – Littleton, Colorado

Littleton plays host to the Colorado stop on the ACC

The Littleton Criterium is the last of the Mountain West trio of stops on the ACC calendar and offers an opportunity for Colorado’s finest to put on a show under the lights in their home state. The course which is situated in the heart of one of Denver’s most popular suburbs is surrounded by restaurants and shopping venues, which brings lots of spectators to line the course all the way around, especially with the start times coming late in the day at 7:45 pm for the women and 9:00 pm for the men. 

The race itself is a conventional six-turn L-shaped course with a long finishing straight following the final turn. The course is just under 0.8 of a mile and is flat, although the altitude of the “Mile High City,” coming in at 5,500 feet does create a different dynamic for the racing. Ultimately, the race tends to favor the sprinters, however, there is always room for a surprise, especially as local riders have the benefit of knowing how to give their all where the air is thinner. 

Bommarito Audi West County Gateway Cup – Sunday, September 1 – St. Louis, Missouri 

Gateway Cup rounds out the season on Labor Day weekend

The ACC season finale might be the last of the eight races, but it is worthy of its status as the curtain closer on the season with “The Hill” of the Giro Della Motagna the Sunday before Labor Day. St Louis is a city that has a rich history and is renowned for the diversity within its neighborhoods. The four-day event’s flagship race on Sunday calls one of the city’s historically Italian neighborhoods home, delivering an intense sense of Italian heritage, gorgeous brick home architecture, and vibrant crowds. 

On paper, the course is like several other races on the ACC calendar with the lap featuring four corners over one mile. Nevertheless, as the name suggests, the race is defined by the hill that takes riders to the top of the course around turn three, before they plunge back down to the long finish straight. The Gateway Cup’s Giro Della Motagna is a great example of how not all four-corner criteriums are created the same and should provide a fascinating cap to a great summer season of racing in the American Criterium Cup. 

How does the series work? 

The ACC is a season-long competition that will award a final cash prize to the top individual riders and teams throughout the eight races. All the events have equal points up for grabs and there will be no races dropped from a rider’s season totals. Points run 15 places deep in both the men’s and women’s fields which means consistency and competing in each of the eight stops will be vital for anyone with the hopes of securing the final prize. In the end, the series will be decided simply by the sum total of each rider’s and team’s total point total at the end of the Giro Della Montagna.

These are the point totals for each race on the calendar

In addition to the overall standings, there is also the fight for the mid-race sprint classification which awards points for the top three riders crossing the line on the lap specified by the event. Those individual sprint points are weighted towards the latter races, with the races later in the season having more sprint points up for grabs at the events in the back half of the season.

Who is racing the ACC? 

The American Crit Cup is a series that is open to any professional and domestic elite riders. For each race, team sizes are limited to six riders for both the men’s and the women’s pelotons. Since the series is open to a wide range of riders, the exact teams and riders who will battle out the final standings are yet to be determined, however, the expectation is that many of the established names from the previous season with return to the series in 2024. 

Last year, the men’s series was won by Danny Summerhill who will be back racing this year with a revamped REIGN STORM Racing team. The team is a reconfiguration of the American Cycling Group, his team from last year, and brings a deep team to defend their overall team title from 2024. While the team is stout, they will have plenty of competition from Ribble Rebellion, L39ion of Los Angeles, Miami Blazers, and UTC/ButcherBox. 

On the women’s side, the top two from the series last year are back and teamed up once again, with Paola Muñoz and Andrea Cyr joining the Goldman Sachs ETF cycling team. The two riders will be back at the ACC this year and are set to be riders to watch whenever they turn up to the start as they look to get the better of teams like L39ion of Los Angeles, the Miami Blazers, DNA Pro Cycling and Cynisca Pro Cycling.