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The Girl with the Cowbell Tattoo: As the World Turns
Worlds is over.
It feels like a bit of a letdown, this week. Not because the racing was bad, just because it somehow feels like the end. And sure, it’s only the end of the season. But as soon as the dust settles as the last Elite racer rolls through at Worlds, it seems like the ’cross scene breathes a sigh of disappointment, and then our brains do a subtle shift, looking out at the horizon and asking, “What’s next?”
This year is more plaintive in our asking, because of the new champions. In the women’s field, we can only ask, “What will Vos conquer next?” and in the men’s field, “Will Stybar be back?”
The two podiums in the Elite races illustrated a valuable point about cyclocross: there is no obvious “type” to win. Stybar is a roadie, Nys, a ’cross specialist, Lechner, a mountain biker, and Vos—let’s face it—an “everything” specialist. We learned that our Americans can do almost as well in Europe as they can in the US (Page’s 18th place was close to Johnson’s 16th at Worlds last year), and we learned that the crowds in Europe aren’t as loud as the crowds in the US, even if they’re larger.
Broadcasting has come a long way as well—three years ago, when I was covering my first World Championship, the commentary was in Dutch, off of a pirated stream, pixelated and almost impossible to write about if not for our reporters in Europe texting me updates.
This year, Universal Sports broadcasted it live from their website and re-ran it on Monday in the US. The UCI’s feed was professional level filming with excellent commentary (thankfully in English this year) and a focus not just on the race leaders, but on who was in the lead for certain countries (we appreciated the US updates).
This week, when I was at a bar with some friends, the bar—without any prompting from me!—was showing a recap of Worlds on Universal. And people were watching, and talking about it. It felt like Christmas.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
Sure, we’ve got a ways to go. But a World Cup outside of the main Euro peninsula (still in Europe—the UK) was announced, and one in the US might be next. We haven’t seen an American on the top step of an Elite Worlds podium, but there’s always next year. Growing a sport takes time, and cyclocross has grown more rapidly than most, and for that, I’m grateful. But I’m not in too much of a rush. Like all good things—scotch, cheese, whatever other aging metaphors you can think of—it takes time to get it just right.
And personally, I’m loving being along for the ride.
It’s not over, by any stretch, but thanks for an awesome season this year!
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Universal has been re-running the races as well. The camera angles and commentaries are always the same, in every re-run, but we get extra chances to catch other racers. I haven't checked World Cycling Productions in a while, so I'm not sure whether they're doing DVDs of 'cross races. Universal has really gone for the "niche" sports, so maybe we'll get better coverage all around.