by Dan Seaton
Vienna, Austria – When the news broke last week that ‘cross Worlds may come to the United States in 2013, fans weren’t the only ones surprised and excited. Athletes, officials, and organizers also lined up in support of the idea of bringing cyclocross’ biggest race to the other side of the Atlantic. [Update: It’s official! 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships and 2012-2013 Masters Cyclocross World Championships coming to Louisville, Kentucky]
Belgian Champion Sven Nys made waves when he threw his support behind the idea in comments that appeared in Belgian newspaper Gazette Van Antwerpen, as previously reported here. UCI ’cross coordinator Peter Van Den Ablee also backed the idea, while pointing out that nothing would be sure until a UCI Management Board vote on Friday, ahead of the Tabor World Championships.
Cyclocross Magazine caught up with several of the athletes and officials for whom Worlds would be a home race at the final round of the World Cup in Hoogerheide to get their thoughts on the news.
Katie Compton, the only American to stand on the podium at the World Championships twice, told us she was already looking forward to the chance to race for the rainbow jersey at home.
“I’m super excited,” she said. “Finally ‘cross is making its way from Europe to the U.S., and I couldn’t be happier. It’s relatively close and I think Louisville’s going to have a really good experience putting on a high-end race. I think they’ll do a really great job with it.”
Compton also echoed a sentiment we heard from a number of riders as well, telling us, “Finally the Europeans get to know what jet lag is like!”
Among the men, Jeremy Powers probably has more experience on the world stage than any other active American other than Jonathan Page. Powers said that an American World Championships would be a game changer.
“It would be a big deal for us, it would be huge,” he told us. “We would be able to finally have something to look forward to in February. And it would be really motivating, thinking about racing at home in February, I think we’d have a really good shot at doing very well.”
Powers, who told Cyclocross Magazine in a previous interview that he would consider racing cyclocross full time if he could afford to, reiterated the sentiment. “It would definitely slow down my road racing and I would definitely be focused on being really good in February,” he said.
Powers’ teammate Jamey Driscoll agreed. “It’s awesome, to start out with. I think it would be a great opportunity to hopefully grow the sport in the U.S. and also for all the Euros to see what we have to deal with, coming over to race with them,” he said.
For Driscoll, that the U.S. is receiving serious consideration for hosting Worlds is a sign of just how much the racing scene on this of the Atlantic has matured. “It’s definitely shown how much the U.S. has legitimized their cyclocross,” he said. “I’m really psyched that people are tirelessly trying to get Worlds over there, because it is the big show.”
But athletes weren’t the only ones excited about the news. Geoff Proctor, director of USA Cycling’s Euro ’Cross Camp and a member of the UCI Cyclocross Commission told us he saw it as a positive step for American ‘cross racing.
“It’s huge,” he said, “not only for the younger guys and girls, but also the Elite guys. Maybe we’ll see some of our guys who don’t focus on [Worlds] 100 percent; they’re going to be rejuvenated.”
Proctor pointed out that despite the high level of competition in Europe and near-universal enthusiasm about bringing the world’s best to America, the U.S. cyclocross scene already was doing many things very well. “I think we have a great thing going on in the U.S. with ‘cross,” he said. “You look at our women racers and I think the energy is amazing for our women’s races [in the U.S.], compared to even [Europe].”
And while Proctor agreed that a major cyclocross race in the U.S. would help expand interest in American ’cross racing, he pointed out that developing racers would still need to come to Europe to get experience at the sport’s top levels.
“In my role as coach and with the camp, I’m all about the international level, so I’m happy and excited that the U.S. scene is growing,” he said. “But as long as the highest level is in Europe, I want to see our riders—all of our riders—aspiring to that level. We still need to cultivate and nurture the U.S. scene, but we need to get them over here. We need to get them learning and handling the adversity. It’s just hard over here, and I think we can get it right, we have gotten it right, so we’re always striving for that.”
Overall, Proctor’s view of American ‘cross was the same one we heard from almost everybody we interviewed in Hoogerheide.
“[America’s] biggest strength is energy,” he said, “how positive and enthusiastic everybody is. We have our differences, but all the promoters, everybody’s really about the same thing. That’s what we have going for us. We don’t have this long history of tension between different factions. It’s still a young sport in our country, and everybody’s just excited about it.”