Teammates Brandon Dwight and Pete Webber took one-two in the Masters 40-44. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Teammates Brandon Dwight and Pete Webber took one-two in the Masters 40-44. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Pete Webber contributed a fabulous regular column during Nationals last weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s continuing to bring us update from Masters Worlds in Louisville, Kentucky, all this week. Go back and check out Pete’s columns about his uncertainty when it came to the new Nationals course and date change, his interview of Boulder Cycle Sport owner (and eventual Mastsers 40-44 national champ! Brandon Dwight and his great interviews with Jonathan Page and Katie Compton.

For full coverage, schedules and information on the 2012 UCI Master’s Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky visit our 2012 Masters Cyclocross World Championships homepage.

Hello Cyclocross Fans!

The Masters World Championships kicks off tomorrow in Louisville, Kentucky, and I’m super excited to be part of this historic event. The course is really excellent, with some great features and a blend of different terrain. But the main element right now is mud. Wednesday’s rains have saturated the venue to an astonishing level. I’d say it is one of muddiest courses I’ve ever ridden. It is drying quickly, and the sandy ground is sure to help conditions change over the next few days.

This marks the first time a Cyclocross Worlds has taken place outside Europe, and everyone here is pumped to be part of it. It’s also cool to be connected with the run-up to next year’s Elite Worlds here in Louisville, and to help test and refine the venue and the whole production. With some Euros skeptical about our ability to produce a proper World Championships, the local organizers are under pressure to demonstrate their ability to create a world-class race.

I attended Masters Worlds last year in Mol, Belgium, and I feel proud that the event has moved stateside for the next two seasons. The race will have a much different style this year, thanks to the awesome promotion team led by Joan Hanscom and Bruce Fina. This is the same team that produces the USGP series, and they’ve developed a well earned reputation for top-level events. Some differences are apparent right off the top – At Mol, which hosted the race for many years, there was no pre-registration, no vendor expo or race village, no host hotel or extra activities, no professional website and no neutral tech support. The course and the competition were certainly top-notch, but the whole event was pretty low key. From what we’ve seen so far, Louisville will definitely raise the bar.

One aspect of this year’s race that will be hard for the promoters to control, however, is the level of international participation. Indeed, the most frequent question people have asked is: Are any Euros coming? Like many racers, I’ve watched the list of registered riders to see who the competition is. Unfortunately, very few international racers are signed up. I’m not surprised, since it is a long trip from Europe, and Masters riders typically have families and jobs that make extended journeys difficult. I’d guess the cost of the whole trip is probably the biggest reason the field won’t include many Euros. And who can blame them? After all only a handful of Americans have traveled to Masters Worlds in Belgium over the past few years.

To dig a bit deeper into this, I exchanged emails with a couple veteran riders from the low countries to see what they had to say:

Mario Lammens is a multi-time national and world champion from Belgium. He wrote: “I’m not coming to the USA because it is to expensive. There is nobody from my friends that I know who visit the Worlds. It’s very nice that the World Championship is not every time at Mol. A real world champion can not ride every year in Belgium. Good luck in the Championship and regards for all my USA friends!”

Edwin Raats is one of the top Masters riders in the Netherlands, and he has won several national and world titles. Here’s what he wrote: “I think it would be very nice to come to the States for the Worlds. But I think it is too expensive for me to come over. I do not know any other riders who will come along, so would have to go by myself. Another reason to stay at home is that I cannot bring two bikes or some spare wheels with other tire profiles. If I had a good sponsor… or when I know somebody in the States who has some materials (wheels), then who knows. I think it is good to have the Worlds in other countries than Belgium. It is good to make the sport more global. However Belgium is where this sport is the biggest I think, and most Masters can not make such a long trip for one race.”

One Belgian who is coming is Sven Van Eyndt in the Men 30-34 category. The “baby Masters” field is one of the smallest groups, since most riders of this age are still riding in the Elite/Open category. But in Belgium and Holland, it is normal for Masters to start at age 30. Van Eyndt has a good shot at bringing the jersey home for Belgium.

With over 400 total riders registered, and home country not included on the participant list, I’m sure there are other riders from outside the US whom I didn’t recognize. I’ll look forward to meeting them here, and I hope they’ll bring their friends for a race vacation next year!

Also new this year are the qualification/seeding races. In the past, the fields in Mol never exceeded the 80 rider UCI limit, and start position was random. The Louisville organizers have put a lot of thought into the new process, and I’m very impressed with the effort. We’ll have to wait and see how the new system works, but so far riders seem excited to test it out.

Stay tuned to this space for more updates later in the week!
– Pete