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Innovation economy

He’s off to the races with a new pro bicycling league

Entrepreneur Paris Wallace says the focus is on diversity and gender equity right from the start

Paris Wallace, pictured fist bumping cyclers at a training camp in Phoenix in February, is the CEO of the National Cycling League. He started two companies in the Boston area before moving to Miami during the pandemic.Courtesy of the National Cycling League

Paris Wallace built two companies in Boston, one focused on genetic testing for embryos, and another that developed software to support healthy pregnancies, before he decided to start a professional sports league.

Not exactly a next logical step, but Wallace, who started his first company when he was a teenager in northern California, saw a big opportunity.

“Go onto any little league field,” he says, “and every single one of the players can name the entire roster of the Boston Red Sox.”

But when it comes to cycling, which Wallace notes is one of the most popular participatory sports in the world, “who can name a current professional cyclist?”


Bike racing has never been a major sport in the US, and many of the highest-profile races, like the Tour de California, Tour de Georgia, and Colorado Classic, had bonked before or because of COVID. (That’s cycling jargon for running out of energy.) Wallace believes there’s opportunity to elevate the sport with his new National Cycling League, staging single-day races in city centers. The first one takes place this weekend in Miami Beach.

After Wallace sold his most recent company, Ovia Health, to the testing giant LabCorp in August 2021, he says he started thinking more about cycling. He is a rather intense weekend cyclist, participating in races like the 150-mile B2VT, which goes from the suburbs of Boston to a ski area in Vermont, climbing the most elevation possible along the way.

National Cycling League cofounder and CEO Paris Wallace (center), flanked by NCL VP of Teams Reed McCalvin (left) and NCL cofounder Randall Clark (right).Courtesy of the National Cycling League

He knew that trying to launch a league would be a “daunting task from a startup perspective.” He also wanted to do it in a way that built in diversity and gender equity from the outset. “Any sport that had to be integrated, or didn’t bring in women, probably didn’t get it right,” he says. Wallace is Black, as are his three cofounders at National Cycling League — an attorney, a wealth manager, and a sports agent. The group of four put in $1 million of seed funding. (Of the four founders, Wallace is the only one working for NCL full-time.)


The league is designing its races to put women and men in the same spotlight. An NCL team will consist of eight women and eight men. The budget for women and men is split down the middle, though individual athletes may get paid differently, Wallace says. “Our highest-paid athlete is a woman,” he notes. In each race, five riders from the women’s teams take the course first, scoring points for their team with each lap around a one-to-two kilometer course. Then the men’s teams do the same. The team that scores the most points — for finishing a lap in first, second, or third place — wins the day. At the end of the four-race inaugural season, one team will take home $1 million in prize money.

NCL has formed two teams — the Miami Nights and the Denver Disruptors — and will invite other bike racing teams to participate in its races in Miami, Atlanta, Denver, and Washington, D.C.

One of the racers for the Miami Nights, Andrea Cyr, says she was recruited by the league after doing well in another race series last year, the American Criterium Cup. (Criterium, or crit, races are run for multiple laps around a closed track, usually in a city center, in one day — compared with multi-day “stage” races like the Tour de France that travel from place to place.) She had been working as a physician in a sports medicine practice in Chicago, traveling around the country to race on weekends, and returning to the city for her Monday 8 a.m. shift.


Cyr quit her job last November to “chase the dream,” she says. “I’m 34, which is on the older side to say that I want this to be my career, but what’s to say that I can’t make this a way of life for a few years?” She got her first paycheck from NCL in January. “I’m doing the same stuff as before, but that paycheck made it feel like a job. It put value to the work I’m doing,” she says.

Wallace and his wife had moved to Miami during the pandemic to escape Boston winters, and he decided to base the company there. He found the city and county receptive to the idea of staging a first race on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive, home to a row of Art Deco hotels. “We’re putting on a world-class sporting event, and the roads are closed for just a few hours,” he says. Spectators can watch for free along most of the course, he says: “Two or three percent of the course is a VIP area, and the rest is accessible.” Tickets to that VIP area cost $215, but include food and beverages.

The National Cycling League brought its two teams to a training camp in Phoenix in February, in advance of four race events this year. The Miami Nights are in blue; the Denver Disruptors are in black.Courtesy of the National Cycling League

Wallace says that the races are designed for shorter attention spans. “A race should be about two hours total,” with 30 photo finishes as the riders complete each lap. By stitching together two-second videos from each of those dashes across the finish line, Wallace says the result is a one-minute video that can be posted to TikTok, the social media app.


In March, the company signed a deal with GCN+, a cycling-focused streaming network, to broadcast all of its races for three years. But for NCL to succeed long-term, it will need broadcast or cable agreements that reach an audience beyond hard-core cyclists, revenue from merchandise tied to its teams and star athletes, and deep-pocketed sponsors. (One early supporter: DeFeet, a North Carolina company that makes socks and other cycling apparel.)

In December, NCL announced that it had raised $7.5 million, with two Boston-based venture capital firms, Founder Collective and Will Ventures, taking the lead. At Founder Collective, a firm that has put money into startups such as Uber and Venmo, partner Eric Paley calls it “the first and likely only sports league we’ll ever back.” Paley says he watched Wallace succeed with two prior companies, and thinks the NCL’s formula will make cycling “accessible to a large audience.”

Part of the NCL’s plan is to capture data and video from each race, so that avid cyclists who may have a Peloton or other so-called smart trainers with a web-connected tablet can replay races as though they were tearing through the streets of Miami Beach or Atlanta. In 2024, Wallace says, the plan is to enable riders at home to participate as the races happen. “It’ll be the first can’t-miss live sports content for people with trainers and Pelotons,” he says.


Isaiah Kacyvenski is a partner at Will Ventures, and a former NFL player who occasionally rides his bike from Weston into the firm’s office in Back Bay. Kacyvenski sees cycling as a “massive market that is largely untapped in the US. You have some niche players in the sport, but no big names.”

Starting this weekend in Miami, NCL will try to change that.

The National Cycling League brought its two teams to a training camp in Phoenix in February, in advance of four race events this year. The Miami Nights are in blue; the Denver Disruptors are in black.Courtesy of the National Cycling League

Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner@pobox.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner.