Believe it or not, it is almost time to turn the page on 2017. To close out the year, we are taking a look back at 13 of the stories that shaped the year. This list is by no means comprehensive and is loosely intended to be in chronological order, starting with the 2017 U.S. Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford.
Officially, the 2017/18 cyclocross calendar started with the Australian National Championships on August 5 in Adelaide. Unofficially? #crosswashere on August 3 at the 2017 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin.
CrossFit you say? Does that not involve lifting weights and doing burpees and tackling obstacle courses? It certainly does, but the sport also celebrates the motto “up for anything,” and at the first edition of the Games held in Madison, anything included cyclocross.
Why cyclocross? According to the CrossFit folks, they wanted to pay homage to Wisconsin’s cycling heritage. “When we decided to move to Madison, we wanted to also embrace the town, the culture, the city,” said CrossFit’s Tim Chan. “Trek Bikes is headquartered in Wisconsin and also cyclocross is huge out here.”
Cyclocross Magazine first caught wind of what was going down at the CrossFit games when a video of a skinny, very un-CrossFit-like guy on a bike trickled across our Instagram feed. Turns out, it was a teaser for the course preview video.
Since cyclocross was getting off to an early start, Cyclocross Magazine knew we had to do whatever it took to be at the event. World Cup travel budget? Cool story bro.
Just kidding, your humble editor lives literally two blocks from the dog park where the course was set up. It makes for a good story though!
The course at Quann Dog Park in Madison was wider, flatter and straighter than most cyclocross courses. However, by the time the preliminary heats were held on Wednesday, a sand pit had appeared, and riders had to hop up and over log barriers and heft their Trek definitely-not-carbon-Boones X-Caliber mountain bikes over a series of barriers. Namur or Zonhoven it was not, but the spirit was there.
On Wednesday, I headed out to watch the preliminary heats and found a fun group of athletes who enjoyed the opportunity to ride bikes. I overheard one woman excitedly talking about how much fun she had. The perfect interview! Turns out it was the defending World Champion Katrin Davidsdottir. More or less the equivalent of coming across Wout van Aert and not having a clue who he is. Fortunately, she was a good sport.
Thursday was the day of the big cyclocross race. Wednesday’s preliminary races were to determine call-up positions. The CrossFit Games are held over four days, from Thursday through Sunday, so Thursday’s races were the second event of the 10+ event CrossFit Games schedule.
CrossFit is a popular sport, and accordingly, a massive crowd descended upon Madison for the Games. When I arrived at the cyclocross event at the CrossFit Games, the crowd was huge. I am terrible at estimating crowds, but I would say it was on-par with the number of folks who were at World Cup Waterloo the next month.
The racing was fun to watch. The athletes gave it everything they had, even if some were better prepared for the rigors of going all-out on a bike for 30 minutes in the late-summer Wisconsin heat. (Although at the time, little did we know the late-summer Wisconsin heat would get worse in September.)
If you missed it, I wrote about my impressions of the event after they happened.
The biggest story from a cyclocross perspective was not the racing. After all, it was just one event at the CrossFit Games and the athletes were on Trek X-Caliber mountain bikes. Not exactly the type of technology likely to be featured in a Cyclocross Magazine bike profile!
No, the story was the reception from our community. People like Jeremy Powers, Adam Myerson and Bill Schieken who have spent years promoting the sport were supportive. CrossFit has orders of magnitude more participants than cyclocross and the video of the event topped out at 1.4 million views. 1.4 million!
The responses in the comments on Facebook and Twitter were not as supportive. For whatever reason, cyclocross at the CrossFit Games had really struck a sour note with a number of vocal folks in the cyclocross community.
At the time, I wrote the following, which I think I still stand by, even if it is a bit cheesy.
It likely comes as little surprise that I enjoyed my two days at the CrossFit Games cyclocross events. I am humbled the CrossFit organizers chose our obscure niche sport because of the challenge it presented for their elite-level athletes. I am doubly humbled that despite it being the state of the Packers and Badger football and basketball, CrossFit associated cyclocross with Wisconsin. (I would have been okay with the beer as well. Folks traveling to World Cup Waterloo are in for a treat.)
The barriers. The sand pit. The downhill off-cambers. The logs. The gravel. The cowbell. The fun. The camaraderie. The crowds. The workout clothes costumes. This was a cyclocross race and I am so stoked September draws nigh.
The cyclocross event at the CrossFit Games was not without its negative epilogue. During the Games, cyclocross winner Ricky Gerard was the story of the weekend, finishing third in his first-ever CrossFit Games. Afterward, he tested positive for PED use and was stripped of his medal and winnings. As has been the case all too often in modern sport, the story that seemed too good to be true was, in fact, too good to be true.
One aspect of the CrossFit Games that is unique is the organizers do not announce many of the competitions until the week or even day of the individual events. The Games return to Madison in 2018, so we will have to see if a cycling event is again part of the event line-up. If it is, there is a good chance Cyclocross Magazine will again be there to cover it, even if it’s because I happen across the racing while taking the dogs to the dog park.
Want to re-live the fun? Check out the replay:
2017 Year in Review
Compton, Hyde win 2017 U.S. Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford
Ellen Noble wins silver at U23 World Championships
Sanne Cant wins first Worlds in epic battle against Marianne Vos