by Molly Hurford
When Nationals 2016 is being held at an actual estate, riders can safely assume they’re in for a treat. And Tim Johnson is convinced as well. He was down in North Carolina training and stopped by the Biltmore Estates, home of the 2016 Cyclocross National Championships, to take a peak at what to expect from Nationals in Asheville. Tim was kind enough to snap some photos of the course and the men behind the already well under way planning of the 2016 event and then chat with us about his thoughts on the course.
Biltmore House was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II in the late 1800’s, and is the largest privately-owned home in the United States at 135,000 square feet. Of course, the house isn’t what matters to racers, but the grounds are pretty spectacular as well. The race will be set amongst the 8,000 acres of America’s largest home in the mountains of western North Carolina. Vanderbilt employed famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds, and beyond the groomed landscape lies natural woodlands and agricultural lands. The grounds also include 75 acres of formal gardens, a winery, and even a hotel: the Inn on Biltmore Estate. As Johnson says, “We’ll have a winery, a hotel, and basically a little village on one area of the property. It’s got everything.”
Johnson says, “I am blown away by what they have to offer. The venue is basically endless; it has everything we could have ever wanted in a cross course. The course itself is going to be as hard, difficult, sketchy, and selective as they want, depending on the conditions. There are hills, there’s flat, there’s pavement, there’s grass, there are trees, there’s singletrack, there’s everything. And infra-structure-wise, it’s got everything else. Food, beer, showers, bathrooms, all that stuff that usually has to be trucked in is all there.”
One of the promoters is Tim Hopkin, the promoter of the UCI race that takes place in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He’s working with three other men, including a Masters racer, and the sports commissioner for the city of Asheville.
“They sound like the best case scenario. We’re two years out, and the Biltmore people say it’s awesome to have us, they’re happy for the event, to make the course however you want, show off the property as best you can,” Johnson tells me. “There are no restrictions, there are no cops, there’s no anything. It’s just, boom, there it is.”
What can we expect for course conditions? “It could be anything. The weather really varies that time of year, so it could be 50 and sunny or 25 and freezing. I think the average temperature is 45 or so.”
“I think that they’re going to get to see Boulder put on an amazing event next year. Boulder is totally going to kick ass. There’s no better way to showcase Nationals than to have it on a purpose-built cyclocross course, and it’s going to be muddy no matter what. Austin has the most potential because of the size of the city, the cycling atmosphere, and all those different pieces. And Asheville being able to count on such a wonderful property has that going on.”
Interesting tidbits from the course? “On the property itself, there’s a lot of elevation, so you can use as much as you want. You can keep it low, you can spread it out. They want to make Nationals more than a Nationals. They want to make the race where you can have different features like planning out the TV broadcasting for it so you can see the parts of the course you want. There are a lot more pieces to a big event than just a good event.”
“We’ve never talked about Nationals more than a year out before and I think the complications we’ve had have been about what’s happening next, so doing this is definitely good.”