For the first time ever, the World Championships of cyclocross will not take place on European soil. Instead, the Championships will follow the Masters Cyclocross World Championships which are celebrating their second year in Louisville, KY, here in the U.S.
The Belgians are Coming! The Belgians are Coming!
Dan Seaton, who has been following cyclocross in Belgium for VeloNews reported earlier this week:
When, a year ago at the cyclocross world championships in Koksijde, Belgium, the host country’s elite men’s national team posted an unprecedented sweep of the top seven spots, cyclocross fans began to wonder if the Belgians, long a force in the sport, had become truly invincible. Is there anyone capable of knocking them back a year later when the men roll off on Sunday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky?
The sport’s two biggest non-Belgian men’s stars, world champions Lars Boom (Netherlands) and Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic), both had recently opted to walk away from serious participation in ’cross in favor of more lucrative careers on the road, and the worlds sweep came on top of Belgian wins in the final standings of all three of the world’s biggest cyclocross series — the GVA Trofee, Superprestige, and World Cup.
Belgian dominance in cyclocross is nothing new, of course. Since 1998, when the country’s ’cross renaissance began, almost three-quarters of all men’s world championship podium places belong to Belgians. And, until a week ago, Belgian men had not failed to earn at least one podium spot in every World Cup race held for more than a decade.
But last Sunday’s snowy race in Hoogerheide, Netherlands, went to Martin Bina (Czech Republic), Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) and Simon Zahner (Switzerland). The three may have profited from their skills in unusual conditions and a highly tactical race between Belgian World Cup leader Niels Albert and number two Kevin Pauwels, both of whom were looking to limit risk in pursuit of the overall World Cup title, but last week’s result proved that, on the right day, it is possible to beat the Belgians.
Still Belgium is coming into Sunday’s worlds in Louisville with a seven-man squad that includes both defending champion Albert and Sven Nys, whose palmarès include some 250 wins, including eight Belgian titles and a world championship. The light blue-clad team head to the worlds with six men in the top 10 of the UCI cyclocross rankings, and, as a result, Belgium remains the hands down favorite in the elite men’s race. So who, if anyone, might be able to break the Belgian stranglehold on world class cyclocross in Louisville on Sunday?
Those challenging the Belgiums include French champion Francis Mourey. The Frenchman has three finishes inside the top four in World Cup competition. Other riders to watch include Czech Radomir Simunek, Dutchman Thijs Van Amerongen, and Swiss riders Simon Zahner and Julien Taramarcaz.
As for the women, British champion Nikki Harris will not be starting at Louisville 2013 due to ongoing knee issues. She tweeted, “My season is over. hard decision made easier by being told i have a tear in my knee. Disappointed is an understatement, it’s been a great season and I’m just sad I can’t finish it in the way I began but s*** happens.” Eyes will be on her fellow Britt, Helen Wyman.
U.S. Elite Men
Riding for the U.S. Men’s Elite team will be Jonathan Page (Northfield, NH/ENGVT) who ensured his automatic nomination with his Championship performance in Madison. Jeremy Powers (Easthampton, MA/Team Rapha-FOCUS) automatically qualified for Worlds by being the top-ranked U.S. rider in the UCI rankings and by placing seventh in the World Cup opener in Tabor.
The two other automatic qualifiers are Ryan Trebon (Bend, OR/Cannondale-Clement) and Tim Johnson (Topsfield, MA/Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) who earned their nominations by being the second- and third-ranked riders in the UCI’s elite men’s rankings.
The four automatic qualifiers will be joined in the Elite men’s race by two discretionary picks: James Driscoll (Sandy, UT/Cannondale Cyclocrossworld) and Daniel Summerhill (Englewood, CO/Unitedhealthcare). Driscoll and Summerhill were third and fourth respectively at Cyclocross Nationals.
Absent from the Elite Men’s team is the second place winner of the Cyclocross National Championships, Zach McDonald (Bainbridge Island, WA/Team Rapha-FOCUS). McDonald, instead, will be leading the Men’s U23 team. He was the lone auto qualifier for the U23 men’s race, securing his nomination with his fourth-place performance in the opening round of the world cup in Tabor.
U.S. Elite Women
For the U.S., the Women’s team will be led by Katie Compton (Colorado Springs, CO/Trek Cyclocross Collective) who secured her automatic nomination to Worlds when she dominated the Cyclocross National Championships in Madison earlier this month. Compton will be joined by Kaitlin Antonneau (Racine, WI/Cyclocrossworld-Cannondale), the only Midwesterner on the team. Antonneau earned her automatic nomination to the Worlds earlier this season with a ninth place finish in the World Cup opener in Tabor.
Rounding out the Women’s Elite team are four discretionary selections to the team. They are Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, CO/LUNA Pro Team), Meredith Miller (Boulder, CO/California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized/California Giant Cycling), Amy Dombroski (Boulder, CO/Young Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team), and Jade Wilcoxson (Talent, OR/Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies).
Louisville has been working hard to get Eva Bandman Park ready for the Cyclocross World Championships February 2nd and 3rd. Chief course designer Keegan Schelling and his dedicated group of volunteers have been hard at work building up the course. “I’m exited to showcase this venue to the world because it has potential and I feel that we’ve utilized it.” Schelling commented.
Racers bolt out of the start and jockey for position at the hole shot. After facing one set of barriers, they head to the railroad tie run-up where they are forced off their bikes. The racers then face the sand dunes before encountering the 40 foot long flyover bridge. Racers have a chance to exchange bikes at the pit before facing the second half of the course. A steep descent brings them to 30 feet of climbing a 40-degree angle at the stone steps. There’s another pass through the pit before racers face steep off-camber twists.
Only slight modifications were brought to the course at the Eva Bandman Park used for day two of the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Derby City Cup back in November, 2012. These changes were driven by camera positions and to balance the time differences between the pits.
“It’s a little bit twister, not much longer, between pit one and pit two, “ explained Schelling. One of the twists added was on an off-camber climb. In the November design, the course went straight up and then turned left while for Louisville 2013, the course takes a hard right mid-way through the climb and then does a u-turn on the hill, all off-camber. “It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be an interesting place to watch if it’s wet. This will add 20 seconds (to lap times).”
Also, the course now goes around a ditch used in the USGP design. “(The course) goes around (the ditch), goes over the whoopies which I was sad that we didn’t include in the USGP this year because they’re fun. That turn impacted the turn coming back from pit 2, it used to be banked and now it’s a little bit more off camber.” Schelling said.
One change brought by camera positions was made on the edge of the creek before pit two. “Instead of going into a tunnel of trees down the hill by the rider, we had to stay up on the hill so that they could have a camera shot at it.”
The Masters Championships will take place at Champions Park at River Road Country Club. Bill Elliston of EllistonCoaching.com led the crew that was setting up the course last week and shared the following course description and photos:
The course is 2.61-km in length, and comprises as many features as we could integrate from the now defunct golf course. The start, and first 200 meters on grass, is quite wide to allow settling for position; it’s roughly 18-20 feet (5.4-6 m). Beyond that it tapers to a normal width of approx 10-15 feet (3-4.5 meters) wide. There are a few tight sections that fall just at the 3 meter minimum. More or less, some of the twisty stuff is a bit narrower, and the longer pedal sections are nice and wide.
The start is on a long (100~ meter) section of “road” built by the city, out of crushed stone. The road transitions smoothly into grass, bearing slightly left and out into the field. After approx 300~ meters, it encounters the first obstacle of a short tight off camber section. Through that, then in and out of a gully, few more turns, and on towards pit one (enter pit one at 1/2 km).
Exiting pit one, it makes a U-turn on to sidewalk, then bears right, through a few turns, and off towards the next obstacle, a ‘whoop-de-doo’ section. Exit that section with a tight right hander, little pedaling, then near 180-degree right around some pines and into a short stair section.
Top of the stair section puts you into sand, and making a right handed U-turn all the way through. Then descend down a small patch of grass to the left and into another short (10~ meter) sandpit. Hard left out of that sand pit and slight uphill on grass, into the next sandpit (10-15~ meters). Hook left onto an off-camber immediately after, then right turn dropping down to another fast pedaling section.
Along that pedaling section is another U-turn through some trees, and onto another sidewalk section that curves right. Exiting the sidewalk, it goes into a tiered uphill with a short patch of sand in the middle. At the top, quick U-turn and back down the grass, and into two hard right hand turns.
Exiting those turns, you go uphill a bit again, with a bit of a slow start, and into the longest sand section (20~ meters). Little descent down mildly off camber and some sand, and you make a few turns heading into pit 2 (enter pit 2 at 1.8km).
Pit 2 exit has sweeper left, tighter right, and into left U turn. Shortly after the U turn will be the barriers. After remount, few more turns, the last two tight, bringing you into the last sand section. Again short, and slightly uphill.
Straight down off that, across a small gully, and straight into the “uphill run/ride” section. Top of that, right turn along top of ridge, then sweeping right and left off-cambers to come back down into gully.
As far as difficulty, the sand sections should all be relatively easily ride-able, but with the amount of them, should prove challenging. The U-turn one could prove to be the ‘easily ride-able’ exception. The ‘whoop-de-doos’ have a fast entrance and hard turn at the end so will require serious focus and attention. The one “run/ride”, will only be a ride if it is super dry, and only by the very strongest folks. And the stair run will be tough, as it’s also quite steep, and with a slow entrance.
Both downhills from the runs have tricky off cambers as well.
Overall, it has a pretty well-rounded feel to it.
While we set up, there was still remnants of the near three inches of rain they had received the weekend prior. Ground was pretty soft, and the steep run-ups very greasy. By Thursday however, Sun had been out, and things were drying up well.
So weather could be the biggest factor: if the course is dry, it should be pretty fast. I would venture around 6:30 lap times by the fastest groups. Wet, a different story as the ground stays quite saturated there and things would slow down greatly and be pretty tricky. And you’d be glad to have long toe spikes for the runs.
If you make it down to Louisville during the week, keep your eyes open for Gearhead Catherine Watkins whose race is Thursday afternoon at 1:00pm.
Note: all event times are posted in EST, the time zone for Louisville, KY.
|12:00pm||CX Male Masters 50-54||Heats||3 laps|
|1:30pm||CX Male Masters 60-64||Heats||3 laps|
|2:30pm||CX Male Masters 55-59||Heats||3 laps|
|3:30pm||CX Female Masters 45-49||Heats||2 laps|
|4:30pm||CX Male Masters 50-54||Repechage||3 laps|
|8:30am||CX Male Masters 45-49||Heats||3 laps|
|10:00am||CX Male Masters 40-44||Heats||3 laps|
|11:30am||CX Male Masters 30-34||Heats||3 laps|
|12:30pm||CX Male Masters 45-49||Repechage||3 laps|
|1:00pm||CX Male Masters 30-34||Heats||3 laps|
|1:30pm||CX Male Masters 40-44||Repechage||3 laps|
|2:00pm||CX Male Masters 45-49||Consolation||40 mins|
|2:45pm||CX Male Masters 50-54||Consolation||40 mins|
|3:30pm||CX Male Masters 35-39||Heats||3 laps|
|8:30am||CX Male Masters 35-39||Repechage||3 laps|
|9:00am||CX Male Masters 65-69||Final||40 mins|
|9:00am||CX Male Masters 70-74||Final||40 mins|
|9:00am||CX Male Masters 75-79||Final||40 mins|
|9:00am||CX Male Masters 80+||Final||40 mins|
|9:45am||CX Male Masters 50-54||Final||40 mins|
|10:30am||CX Male Masters 55-59||Final||40 mins|
|11:20am||CX Female Masters 45-49||Final||35 mins|
|12:30pm||CX Male Masters 30-34||Repechage||3 laps|
|1:00pm||CX Female Masters 30-34||Final||40 mins|
|1:45pm||CX Male Masters 40-44||Consolation||45 mins|
|2:45pm||CX Female Masters 40-45||Final||35 mins|
|3:30pm||CX Male Masters 60-64||Final||40 mins|
|4:15pm||CX Male Masters 35-39||Consolation||45 mins|
|8:30am||CX Female Masters 55-59||Final||35 mins|
|8:30am||CX Female Masters 60-64||Final||35 mins|
|8:30am||CX Female Masters 65-69||Final||35 mins|
|8:30am||CX Female Masters 70-74||Final||35 mins|
|8:30am||CX Female Masters 75+||Final||35 mins|
|9:15am||CX Male Masters 30-34||Final||45 mins|
|10:15am||CX Female Masters 50-54||Final||35 mins|
|11:00am||CX Female Masters 35-39||Final||40 mins|
|12:30pm||CX Male Masters 45-49||Final||45 mins|
|1:30pm||CX Male Masters 40-44||Final||45 mins|
|2:30pm||CX Male Masters 35-39||Final||45 mins|
|9:45am||Men Juniors World Championships**||Final||40 mins|
|11:00am||Women World Championships***||Final||40 mins|
|12:30pm||Men U23 World Championships**||Final||50 mins|
|2:30pm||Men World Championships***||Final||60 mins|
|11:00am||Women World Championships***||moved to Sat|
|2:30pm||Men World Championships***||moved to Sat|
- Men Juniors**: Saturday February 2 – 8:45am to 9:45am CST
- Women Elite***: Saturday February 2 – 10:00am to 11:00am CST
- Men U23**: Saturday February 2 – 11:30am to 12:30pm CST
- Men Elite***: Saturday February 2 – 1:30pm to 2:45pm CST
* Updated schedule
** Updated time
*** Updated day and time
For an interesting read on how Louisville earned the distinction of hosting the first Cyclocross World Championships outside of Europe, check out this article from the February issue of VeloNews by By Chris Case.