Masters Worlds Rider Journal: Lee Waldman, Part III – Reflections, Feedback, and Recap

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Lee Waldman weighs in with a recap of his race and his overall impression of the 2012 UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, KY below.

Rider diaries, videos, photos, reports and all things veldrijden will be pouring in this weekend for the 2012 UCI Master’s Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. To see them all, visit our 2012 Masters Cyclocross World Championships homepage.

by Lee Waldman

One more season of cyclocross in the books, as they say. My race is done, my muddy clothes are stashed in a plethora of trash bags. (I love that word, plethora). My flight to Denver doesn’t leave for another two and a half hours so I have plenty of time to reflect back on the last couple of days.

First off, my race. It went “OK” in the sense that: 1) I had fun (always, always, the most important element in my opinion); 2) I’m now completely over my fear of icy ruts now. And there were ruts aplenty in Louisville; deep and increasingly muddy as my race progressed. For those of you who were there, think Kansas City the first of the two years Nationals were held there; 3) No broken bones, or bikes, but this was a costly race – a broken derailleur hanger and a trashed set of SRAM Red shifters. They just didn’t handle multiple crashes into firmly planted course markers very easily; 4) I met my permanent goal of finishing the race knowing that I rode as well and as hard as I could on that particular day.

I finished 11th, just out of the top ten which was my wish going in. I might have gotten there except for my multiple crashes. But, you don’t need to hear about my race in detail.

The promoters of this race did a good job. They dealt with the unexpected conditions as best and as quickly as they could. But, they could have done so much more.

There, I’ve said it.

First, the course: It was challenging because of the conditions. Frozen four-inch deep ruts can make an empty lot a challenge. Had the weather been dry, the course would have been fun; an energy-sapping course because of the grass, but nothing like it was. From talking with friends who pre-rode early in the week when it was dry, the entire course was rideable. By the time the real racing had started, the rain, snow, and frigid temperatures changed everything completely. It was hard, it was a challenge, it was incredibly selective.

However, I’m left wondering two things:

1) What can be changed to make this venue a challenge to the world’s elite riders. Because bottom line, I don’t think it is right now;

2) Why didn’t the promoters use the crew that they had to alter the course each night in order to make it a bit safer? The ruts were a challenge and I don’t think that they should have gotten rid of them completely [Ed. note: see video of rolling out the ruts at the 2012 Cyclocross National Championships], but there was so much real estate to work with that moving the tape even five feet each night would have given the racers fresh terrain to really ride their bikes.

The winners here were worthy winners. They were the strongest and most technically proficient. But behind those first four or five riders, luck had so much to do with final placings. The course took its toll in so many ways that could have been avoided while maintaining the integrity of the sport.

Lee Waldman wished for an expo at least equivalent to that of a local race like this Seattle Cyclocross Expo. ©Janet Hill

Lee Waldman wished for an expo at least equivalent to that of a local race like this Seattle Cyclocross Expo. ©Janet Hill

The venue itself: Thinking back to some of the Nationals I’ve raced in the past, the ones that stood out were the ones where not only was the course great, but the venue was as well. My first Nationals was Seattle, years ago at SeaTac Park. The theme there was rain, rain, and more rain. I remember shouldering the bike through a “puddle” that was almost knee deep and at least 25 yards long. Although it was impossible to be outside for more than a few minutes, the promoter made sure that there was a party feel inside of the main tent. There were multiple vendors and it was an exciting place to be both before and after the race. Providence was the same, the blizzard conditions notwithstanding. The courses there are incredible, my favorites, and again there was a clear industry presence making it enjoyable to hang around when not racing. Bend – same thing. Good course, great party atmosphere in the venue.

Then I get to Louisville for a Masters World Championship and there is nothing there. No vendors, one local selling food, no industry presence at all. So my question: What’s up with that? I think about our New Belgium race in Colorado, even some of our local races – Boulder Cup comes to mind. I know that there was more industry presence, more of an expo there than in Louisville. The only crowds I saw all weekend long were the families and friends of the racers.

Lee Waldman longs for the crowds, atmosphere and expo of Bend, Oregon. ©Joe Sales

Lee Waldman longs for the crowds, atmosphere and expo of Bend, Oregon. ©Joe Sales

If I’m a promoter taking on the responsibility of a race of this stature, I need to make it an event. After all, people spend thousands of dollars to attend. They should be going somewhere that looks and feels substantially different than a simple, local bike race.

There will be many of you who disagree with me. I’m fine with that. But please, think about what I’ve just written. Next year the world’s elite riders will arrive here expecting the same level of professional promotion that they find in Europe. Most of all they will expect a course that challenges them. Louisville won’t, at least not the way I see it after this weekend. My biggest fear is that USA Cycling will be embarrassed beyond belief if things don’t change substantially.

Call me a whiner, call me a pessimist, or call me a realist. I love cyclocross. I love everything about it, even frozen, greasy ruts that threaten to throw me on my butt every time I lose concentration. But next year, when “The Show” gets here I want them to see the best we have to offer.

Go ride.

Also see Simon Burney and promoter Bruce Fina’s comments on the event, course, and the upcoming 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in a video interview with Pete Webber.

 

 

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5 comments
cyclocross
cyclocross moderator

jaredroy said "I too was expecting more vendors and "atmosphere". Having raced the CrossCrusade series this year, I guess I'm spoiled. They do have a ton of real estate and the course could have been different every day to avoid the ruts."

TheRealPSIMET
TheRealPSIMET

USGP in Louisville was great. Tons of people and industry there as well as a huge presence from Papa John's. It was a lot warmer and the big names were there. I have to admit that even I pretty much made it there in time for the race, worked pits, talked to a few industry contacts and then hit the road. The course can and has been extremely challenging. The temps are something that Louisville hasn't really had to contend with up to this point and I am sure there are a lot of "lessons learned".After our race I was waiting in line to powerwash bikes - everything was freezing up. Put Tilford's bike up there and started washing it for him and everything went dead. It's water and it's below freezing...I get it, but it was kind of a PITA. Having a World Champ waiting in line to wash his rig after his race...nevermind...I guess it WAS Tilford....All this said, I loved the racing and still had a ton of fun watching what I could. I can't wait for USGP events there next year as well as Elite Worlds. I am sure we'll be more than happy with what we show the world.

lbeachy52
lbeachy52

I agree that the festival feel was missing unlike the Sun Prairie USGP and Jingle Cross in Iowa City . Since the promoters of the USGP series were putting on the Master Worlds I expected more. Even the locals seemed unaware of the race. You assessed it fairly well. I regret not getting to talk to you this weekend. I see you staged right ahead of me. It's been enjoyable reading and relating with the posts of a fellow Master CXer.

jaredroy
jaredroy

@cyclocross I want to reiterate that they did a great job with all the weather thrown at them. The lack of vendors and atmosphere was similar to Masters Worlds in Mol last year.

lwaldman
lwaldman

@jaredroy@cyclocross And I agree Jared. The weather was certainly a challenge and I respect them for what they did. But as you said in your earlier post, they had a ton of real estate to work with. I just hope that my comments are taken as constructive criticism and not sour grapes in any way, shape or form.

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