The 2017 Derby City Cup is staying in Louisville, but moving a few miles south from Eva Bandman to Joe Creason Park. The venue at Eva Bandman has a lot of history after hosting the 2013 World Championships, but moving the event to Joe Creason provides a first look at the venue that will be hosting the 2018 U.S. Cyclocross National Championships when they move back to December.
The course at Joe Creason Park is split into two parts. The “upper” part is concentrated near the Louisville Tennis Center and its myriad tennis courts. The course here is flatter, and with a large recycling center nearby, does not provide much in the way of views.
The “lower” portion of the park on the eastern side is picturesque, with fall colors still lingering and a large hill that towers over the course below. Located atop the hill is a mansion that houses the Louisville Metro Parks headquarters. This half of the course features a lot of climbing and several impressive descents.
Louisville got 1.5 inches of rain on Friday morning, so the course during Friday’s pre-ride was either water-logged, greasy or straight muddy, depending on location. Riders at the park on Friday were talking about the mud tacking up on Saturday, but there is a chance of showers on Saturday night, so as happened at Cincinnati, conditions could change from one day to the next.
Cyclocross Magazine arrived in Louisville on Friday, and photographer Deghan Perker and I took a tour of the course for this weekend’s Derby City Cup and Pan-American Championships.
If you scroll down, there is also a course preview video.
Joe Creason Park Course Preview
The course starts on the pavement in the southeast corner of Joe Creason Park. The first stretch is a fast section of grass and pavement that goes around the tennis courts and heads back toward expo and team tent area. The first real feature is an uphill right-hand turn near the recycling drop-off site, which adds an industrial feel to the beauty of the second half of the course.
Once past recycling center, riders will wind through a small grassy opening before hitting the flyover.
The flyover was recently built and features stairs on the way up and a steep drop on the way out. The right-hand exit turn was somewhat slick thanks to the rain. More rain could add to the adventure of exiting the wooden structure.
Once past the pit, the technical portion of the course begins. Riders enter the section by making the first of several descents toward the South Fork Bluegrass Creek.
Once at the bottom, the technical fun starts. Riders have to carry speed into a muddy semi-off-camber turn that gets very steep, very fast.
Like several of the features on the course, the degree of difficulty of this feature will likely be increased by the traction-sapping mud. The rain has given the venue a very cyclocross-in-November feel and Saturday morning, fog and dampness are hovering in the air.
Once up the rise, riders next have to contend with an off-camber that gives the choice of both a high and low line.
The exit is a sharp right-hand incline that, again, proved challenging for many of the amateur riders we saw out on Friday night. Needless to say, this was a popular spot for riders during pre-ride.
So you made it up the muddy incline and through the off-camber, now it is time to rest, right? Not so fast. The final technical feature is a set of five limestone steps that are rideable if speed and timing are dialed in.
We saw Tristan Cowie step up the stairs with aplomb while out on the course.
After three straight technical features, the chance for a rest still has to wait. Snow fencing out on a course can often be a sign a ripping downhill nearby, and at Joe Creason, it is definitely the case. Riders quickly turn and go bombing right back down the hill. About 2/3 of the way down is a decent-sized drop that sends riders into a sharp right-hand turn. The mud accumulating at the turn certainly does not make it any easier.
The best Mathieu van der Poel moment belonged to a nine-year-old who unleashed a full tail whip, but Gage Hecht got a little rad at the jump as well.
After the descent, finally a break. Riders cruise down further into the creek floodplain before hitting another steep—and muddy on Friday—climb. Riders get another brief break with a hilltop straight along the road before dropping back down one more time. All told, each lap will feature three climbs of 60-70 feet each, so the total ascent will add up by the end of the race. The climb up the Koppenberg on Wednesday was 150 feet, so yeah, there is a lot of climbing.
Once back in the upper section, riders will go under the flyover and then toward the Parks Department mansion one last time. There is not much going on in this section that features the barriers and section of grass, but after all the technical work and climbing, a likely welcome break.
The final technical feature has been placed right before riders hit the finishing pavement. The star of this section is a rather deep, muddy rut.
Riders descend into a left-hand turn that has a two foot rut conveniently located right after the apex of the turn.
Friday night this section was a muddy mess. Riders seemed to have success staying high near the tree.
Or carrying speed through the low line and powering back up the hill.
Once you get through the apex, you still have to deal with the giant rut waiting to swallow your wheel.
Features like this located right before the finish line are always intriguing and it will be interesting to see how it affects the racing on Saturday and Sunday.
Once through the mud, it is onto the pavement and time to head out for another lap.
Lap times are likely to be a bit on the longer side, but not as long as what riders were doing at Devou Park on Saturday. Stephen Hyde and Kerry Werner each had practice times of 8:40, so at race pace, subtract, how many minutes?
Stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine all weekend for coverage of the 2017 Derby City Cup and Pan-American Championships.
Derby City Cup Course Preview Video