Three months out from the first UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships to be held in the United States, a final dress rehearsal was held last weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. Numerous European athletes took the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the course. The event on February 2 and 3 2013 promises to be exciting, if the test event is anything to go by.
"The organisers and support crew have really done their homework", observed Geoff Proctor, member of the UCI Cyclo-cross Commission.Â "Not only is the course well-designed, but aspects not readily apparent to the spectator are set".
The circuit in Eva Bandman Park is technical, with sections of sand. The American Jeremy Powers (RaphaFocus), who won the Elite Menâs race on Saturday and Sunday, commented: "The sand was definitely difficult. This is actually a very demanding course so for me to go early wasn't ideal but it was what I had to do.â
Power finished with a 21-second advantage over Belgiumâs Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) on Sunday, and 14 seconds in front of his compatriot Ryan Trebon (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) the day before.
In the Elite Womenâs race, the American Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) also took double victory. "Going through the sand pit is really hard and it's really hard after the sand pit," she said.Â "You turned to the pavement with a headwind, so it's insult to injury right there.â
âA course that will favor both technique and tacticsâ
Proctor, who is coach of the United States Under-23 squad, underlined the quality of the course âwith its short, punchy climbs, grinding sand section, and power flats. It's a course that will favor both technique and tactics.â
As always in cyclo-cross, the weather will have a major influence on the Worlds. The Trek US Gran Prix took place in good weather and on a dry course. However, the UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships were held in Louisville last year in muddy conditions.
Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team), who finished 3rd then 4th in the Womenâs race explains that if the sand sections are dry at the World Championships, as they were for the test event, it could prove chaotic:Â "The girls couldn't ride it so they put lots of footprints in, not lines," explained the British rider. "So every lap you come in and have to start a new line.â
Geoff Proctor analyses the venue from an overall point of view: "There is well-positioned national team and professional team parking, easy access from parking to pit for mechanics, adequate capability for power washers. The venue's overall footprint is more compact than many European races, so the atmosphere will be intense and special.â
âLouisville is one of the most friendly cities in Americaâ
And the atmosphere? The spectators flocked in their thousands to the 2012 edition of the Trek US Gran Prix of Cyclocross, as they did in 2011 and for last yearâs UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships.
"Louisville is one of the most friendly, vibrant cities in America", says the member of the UCI Cyclo-cross Commission. "The people are incredibly gracious and hospitable. There's a lot of energy building for this event and the hope is that the sporting public and cyclocross supporters from around the world will come together to create an unforgettable experience.â
In an extension of the test event and to continue developing cyclo-cross throughout the world, the UCI is organising a training course for Commissaires of the discipline (and another for those of BMX) from Monday to Wednesday. Of the 14 participants, from Canada, the United States and New Zealand, seven will sit the final exam.
Photo: "The hope is that the sporting public and cyclocross supporters from around the world will come together to create an unforgettable experience"Â (credit: Wil Matthews).