Lee Waldman weighs in with a recap of his race and his overall impression of the 2012 UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, KY below.
Rider diaries, videos, photos, reports and all things veldrijden will be pouring in this weekend for the 2012 UCI Master’s Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. To see them all, visit our 2012 Masters Cyclocross World Championships homepage.
by Lee Waldman
One more season of cyclocross in the books, as they say. My race is done, my muddy clothes are stashed in a plethora of trash bags. (I love that word, plethora). My flight to Denver doesn’t leave for another two and a half hours so I have plenty of time to reflect back on the last couple of days.
First off, my race. It went “OK” in the sense that: 1) I had fun (always, always, the most important element in my opinion); 2) I’m now completely over my fear of icy ruts now. And there were ruts aplenty in Louisville; deep and increasingly muddy as my race progressed. For those of you who were there, think Kansas City the first of the two years Nationals were held there; 3) No broken bones, or bikes, but this was a costly race – a broken derailleur hanger and a trashed set of SRAM Red shifters. They just didn’t handle multiple crashes into firmly planted course markers very easily; 4) I met my permanent goal of finishing the race knowing that I rode as well and as hard as I could on that particular day.
I finished 11th, just out of the top ten which was my wish going in. I might have gotten there except for my multiple crashes. But, you don’t need to hear about my race in detail.
The promoters of this race did a good job. They dealt with the unexpected conditions as best and as quickly as they could. But, they could have done so much more.
There, I’ve said it.
First, the course: It was challenging because of the conditions. Frozen four-inch deep ruts can make an empty lot a challenge. Had the weather been dry, the course would have been fun; an energy-sapping course because of the grass, but nothing like it was. From talking with friends who pre-rode early in the week when it was dry, the entire course was rideable. By the time the real racing had started, the rain, snow, and frigid temperatures changed everything completely. It was hard, it was a challenge, it was incredibly selective.
However, I’m left wondering two things:
1) What can be changed to make this venue a challenge to the world’s elite riders. Because bottom line, I don’t think it is right now;
2) Why didn’t the promoters use the crew that they had to alter the course each night in order to make it a bit safer? The ruts were a challenge and I don’t think that they should have gotten rid of them completely [Ed. note: see video of rolling out the ruts at the 2012 Cyclocross National Championships], but there was so much real estate to work with that moving the tape even five feet each night would have given the racers fresh terrain to really ride their bikes.
The winners here were worthy winners. They were the strongest and most technically proficient. But behind those first four or five riders, luck had so much to do with final placings. The course took its toll in so many ways that could have been avoided while maintaining the integrity of the sport.
The venue itself: Thinking back to some of the Nationals I’ve raced in the past, the ones that stood out were the ones where not only was the course great, but the venue was as well. My first Nationals was Seattle, years ago at SeaTac Park. The theme there was rain, rain, and more rain. I remember shouldering the bike through a “puddle” that was almost knee deep and at least 25 yards long. Although it was impossible to be outside for more than a few minutes, the promoter made sure that there was a party feel inside of the main tent. There were multiple vendors and it was an exciting place to be both before and after the race. Providence was the same, the blizzard conditions notwithstanding. The courses there are incredible, my favorites, and again there was a clear industry presence making it enjoyable to hang around when not racing. Bend – same thing. Good course, great party atmosphere in the venue.
Then I get to Louisville for a Masters World Championship and there is nothing there. No vendors, one local selling food, no industry presence at all. So my question: What’s up with that? I think about our New Belgium race in Colorado, even some of our local races – Boulder Cup comes to mind. I know that there was more industry presence, more of an expo there than in Louisville. The only crowds I saw all weekend long were the families and friends of the racers.
If I’m a promoter taking on the responsibility of a race of this stature, I need to make it an event. After all, people spend thousands of dollars to attend. They should be going somewhere that looks and feels substantially different than a simple, local bike race.
There will be many of you who disagree with me. I’m fine with that. But please, think about what I’ve just written. Next year the world’s elite riders will arrive here expecting the same level of professional promotion that they find in Europe. Most of all they will expect a course that challenges them. Louisville won’t, at least not the way I see it after this weekend. My biggest fear is that USA Cycling will be embarrassed beyond belief if things don’t change substantially.
Call me a whiner, call me a pessimist, or call me a realist. I love cyclocross. I love everything about it, even frozen, greasy ruts that threaten to throw me on my butt every time I lose concentration. But next year, when “The Show” gets here I want them to see the best we have to offer.
Also see Simon Burney and promoter Bruce Fina’s comments on the event, course, and the upcoming 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in a video interview with Pete Webber.