The Elite men in a long thin line in Louisville © David Crimson
I don’t know why I love you like I do
All the changes that you put me through
Sixteen candles there on my wall
And I’m comin’ on the biggest fool of them all
I wanna know, can you’ll tell me
I’d love to stay
Take me to the River
–Talking Heads, “Take Me to the River”
Louisville, KY – Louisville’s Storm the Greens cyclocross race will close out not only the Zipp OVCX season, but also an era on December 6. With a near-decade-old master plan for a multi-use urban park finally reaching the construction phase, all expectations are that this year’s season-ending Storm the Greens will be the last-ever cyclocross race at Louisville’s iconic River Road Country Club.
An end of an era does not mean the end of the road, however. Few, if any, cities in North America offer the political support that cyclocross enjoys in Louisville. There are already other ‘cross venues in the city (the Tour de Louisville cyclocross race, for example, takes place at Fisherman’s Park on the other side of the city). And, in the larger picture, the success of cyclocross at River Road Country Club has made the construction of a full-time, permanent cyclocross facility high on the short-term objectives of the city’s parks department, according to Jason Cissell of Metro Parks.
First built as a golf course in 1900 on the banks of the Ohio River, River Road Country Club operated as a private country club for 50 years before closing in 2005 when it defaulted on loans to the city. Cyclists discovered “that abandoned golf course” a few months later at about the same time that the public was first granted access, and the property quickly became an incubator of Midwest cyclocross and talent. Weekly summer kids’ cross practices led to the creation of Red Zone Racing, one of the largest junior cyclocross programs in the nation. And the park has also been the site of numerous races, including the annual Storm the Greens and editions of the USGP’s Papa John’s Derby City Cup. What many Louisville cyclocross racers didn’t realize at the time, however, was that the park wasn’t as “abandoned” as it first appeared. In fact, a master plan to develop the venue into a major urban recreational area called Champions Park was already reaching its final stages and the park was in the interim period of design tweaks and financing that is common before the groundbreaking of major real estate developments. Still, for many racers, looking forward to the last race at River Road is emotionally akin to the closing bell of their last day of High School. No matter how bright the future is, it’s tough to let go of the place where you grew up and had so many memories. And, like recent graduates reminiscing on their school days, it’s difficult to believe that all those memories came from a span of just four short years.
So, Storm the Greens promoter Bob Bobrow decided that the only appropriate thing to do is throw a graduation party for ‘cross racing at River Road. The race organizers have rented two huge 20’ x 40’ enclosed tents and made arrangements to have BBQ, chili, probably pizza (the race is sponsored by the Papa Johns Racing Team) and maybe even a “graduation” cake to commemorate the occasion. And there will be much to celebrate. In addition to the last-ever race at River Road Country Club, Storm the Greens is the final race of the 2009 Zipp OVCX Tour and the Kentucky State Championships. The party will feature an extended awards ceremony where State Championship and Zipp OVCX Tour loot, including a custom frame by Shamrock Cycles, will be given away. Of note is that, because of the season awards presentations immediately following the race, Storm the Greens will be Pre-Registration only with no walk-up registration whatsoever.
According to Bobrow, the course that will be used for this year’s Storm the Greens is a straight-forward, no-gimmicks cylocross course that will be the perfect send-off to cyclocross in the park. “It’s compact, spectator friendly, and fun to race. What’s it got? Smooth grass, sand, three sets of earthen steps, berms, twists, turns and, in December, mud.” Notably missing from the course this year will be plank barriers. “Barriers?” asks Bobrow, “With all the features this park has, we don’t need no stinkin’ barriers. But we’ve got tents. With food.”
River Road Country Club is a very convenient location, one of the reasons why it has been so popular, and is located at exit 2 of Interstate 71 between the Ohio River and the highway. Admission to the races is free but race entry is by pre-registration only at TrueSport.com.
For more information on Storm the Greens, see www.OVCX.com.