It’s a word that’s been overused as of late. But what word could better describe the weekend’s events in Louisville, KY? From the local businessmen who came to the rescue with funding in December to the last minute changes in the schedule to avoid a natural disaster this weekend, from the rising water levels and mud to the storm that blew in just in time for the Elite race, from the first World Championship ever outside of Europe to the racing itself…
It. Was. EPIC.
Back in December, the World Championship was at risk of collapse due to a revenue shortfall. Local community leaders John Shattner (Papa John’s), David A. Jones, Sr. (Humana) and Same Swope (Same Swope Auto Group) came through and rescued the event with significant financial contributions. Soon after, Louisville Sports Commission teamed up with and transferred operation responsibilities to USA Cycling to ensure the success of the World Championships.
Those last minute changes were nothing compared to the quick thinking required over the weekend to save the event from Mother Nature. Louisville was not immune to the winter storms that hit last week. After the first day of Heats, strong weather moved through – complete with heavy rain, strong winds and even tornadoes in neighboring Kentucky and Indiana towns. Wednesday morning, the races had to be delayed while race organizers cleared the Masters course of downed trees and standing water. Then Thursday morning brought rapidly dropping temperatures and snow.
Meanwhile, water levels in the Ohio River continued to rise. The Army Corps of Engineers were out sandbagging the course and pumping water from low-lying levels in Eva Bandmann Park from Beargrass Creek. Early Friday, with NOAA predicting the park would be flooded by Sunday morning, the race organizers made the call to revise the Championship schedule. All four elite races were moved to Saturday, instead of being spread out over the two day weekend.
Just like the Cyclocross National Championships in Madison, the rapidly changing conditions meant that course conditions varied widely. Each race had its own set of challenges. Tuesday night’s storms meant a messy and muddy Masters course for Wednesday. By Friday, the muddy ruts were solidly frozen into place. Even the Elite course, which was only in use one day, went from being snow covered to muddily messy when another storm brought rain mixed with snow just in time for the Men’s race.
But none of that could dampen the spirits of the many who came to Louisville for the event. Indeed, the world did come to Louisville. The crowds were estimated to be 12,000 strong. And the racing did not disappoint.
For many, especially for the Americans, the highlight of the day was the Women’s race. It had been predicted that whoever could manage the hole shot would have the advantage. For the Women, that was Marianne Vos (Netherlands) who took the lead early and kept it the entire race, finishing 1:43 before her nearest competitor.
Meanwhile, Katie Compton (U.S.A.) got stuck behind slower riders. Her tenacity didn’t let her down. Neither did the American spectators who cheered her on as she passed rider after rider. Here is her analysis of her ride:
Luckily enough, I’ve had plenty of practice chasing all this year and recovering from crappy starts, so I figure – what’s one more. I did everything I could and Marianne obviously had a gap. The thought of not winning a medal here was heartbreaking, so there is no way in hell that was going to happen. I put everything out there and rode with a lot of heart and did everything I could.
With a couple laps to go, Katie secured her second place position and rode smart to maintain it until the end. Of her podium position, Compton said, “Today I felt like I won a silver, not that I got second.”
After coming around the last turn to the straightaway, Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (France) took third after overtaking Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) who was having mechanic difficulties, beating out Nash by two seconds.
For the Men’s race, the Belgians did not disappoint, claiming three of the top four spots. That said, they still put on a good show.
The race began with a battle between Francis Mourey (France) and the Belgian riders Sven Nys, Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Van Tournout. Mourey pulled away from the field for the first three laps of the race while the Belgians chased. The Belgians worked together to chip away at Mourey’s lead and finally overcame him with three laps remaining.
Nys and Van Tournout fought for first place after that. Van Tournout made a strategical error before remounting after the steps. He caught his rear wheel on the fence. That fraction of a moment gave Nys the opportunity to surge ahead and Van Tournout never caught him. The two Belgians took first and second on the podium, with Van Tournout finishing two seconds behind Nys.
Rounding out the podium was Lars Van Der Haar (Netherlands). Belgian Bart Wellens captured fourth place.
The Americans had a respectable showing. Tim Johnson, Jonathan Page (our National Champion), Jeremy Powers and James Driscoll placed 19th, 22nd, 25th and 27th. Ryan Trebon suffered disappointment when he was injured after a bad crash on the course.
For the Women, after Katie Compton, local girl Kaitlin Antonneau beat out Amy Dombroski (11th) for 10th place by seven seconds. Jade Wilcoxson and Georgia Gould took 15th and 17th respectively.
Speaking of local girls, congratulations to Catherine Watkins who placed ninth in her division in her first Worlds competition while riding for Higher Gear. (Check out Catherine’s race report.) Great work, Catherine!
Even the World Champion had this to say: “Yesterday, I felt I was getting a little nervous. I thought ‘Why am I doing this? It is so stressful, costs a lot of energy.’ But in the end when you win and you have this jersey, you say, ‘This is why I am doing it.’”
Everybody didn’t get to come home with a World Champion jersey. Everybody, though – whether they were out there racing or spectating – did come home with memories that will last a lifetime.
The world came to Louisville. And no one will forget that trip.