The road to the championships in Fayetteville has been undulating at best, thanks to the pandemic, some controversial Arkansas laws, a change in leadership, and multiple top cyclocross stars pulling out. Belgian media was even questioning whether the event would take place.
All that has certainly kept the promoters on their toes—so much so that it’s taken nearly two months for us to get a few responses to our questions.
But some press is better late than never, and on the eve before the races start, we were finally secured a quick Q & A with Hazel Hernandez, the Experience Fayetteville Coordinator, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the event coming to fruition.
Cyclocross Magazine: We can imagine it’s been a tough year to plan a World Championships. How has the lead-up gone for your team?
Hazel Hernandez: It has been equal parts busy and exciting to see so much planning and preparation work coming together for this worldwide event. As the teams, athletes, media, and fans have begun to arrive throughout the week, the anticipation for a great weekend of racing and festivities makes us proud to know that all the hard work by so many is coming to fruition.
CXM: How many spectators are you expecting this weekend?
HH: We are expecting 15,000
CXM: How are the weather and course conditions looking for this weekend?
HH: It’s going to be very different from the World Cup event in October when we had significant rain on race day. This weekend is going to be sunny and cold. We anticipate that the course will be relatively fast and dry, but with some recent snowfall, we may see some slightly muddy conditions as the weekend progresses.
CXM: What are 5 things travelers can do at Fayetteville or the surrounding areas before or after the race?
HH: There are so many things to do and see in Fayetteville and throughout Northwest Arkansas that I would love to give you 50 things, but since you asked, I’ll limit it to just five:
- Spend some time on Dickson Street to experience great food, live music and shopping.
- As the first designated UCI Bike City in the US, cycling fans can also spend time as cyclists on more than 50 miles of off-street paved trails inside Fayetteville.
- Experience the Fayetteville Ale Trail – Arkansas’s original craft beer tour – to enjoy local brews and eclectic eats around town.
- Take a driving tour to see the wonderful public art installations throughout town.
- Come to the Fayetteville Downtown Square for unique shopping and dining and stop in at our Visitors Center where our friendly staff will help give you all the information you need to enjoy your time here.
CXM: Walmart sponsored the Fayetteville World Championships. How did this come about? What are the forms of support that are being provided? How are the riders or audience benefiting from this sponsorship?
HH: Walmart has been a wonderful partner for the World Championships. Their commitment to supporting outdoor recreation opportunities in Northwest Arkansas is incredible. It’s hard to even imagine being able to host such an incredible event without their support.
CXM: What changes to the World Cup course, if any, were made between the World Cup and World Championships?
HH: There have been a few minor changes to the course, but because this course has been purpose-built specifically for world-class cyclo-cross racing, the changes are very minor. The major elements that the athletes enjoyed and talked about from the World Cup – Electric Avenue, The 39 Climb stairs and Stonehenge are all permanent features that will be part of this course for many years to come.
CXM: The event will be live-streamed. At the World Cup, Marianne Vos crashed in an area without cameras. How will the video coverage of Worlds compare to the World Cup?
HH: We anticipate that there will be few, if any, areas of the course that will not be covered for the Championships.
CXM: A few top racers will miss Worlds due to COVID-19 positive tests. What are the vaccination and test requirements for the event? What requirements do federations have on top of that?
HH: I can’t speak for individual federations and their specific protocols and requirements, but we know that each national team and federation has measures in place to ensure the athletes and teams are safe.
CXM: The event was in the press a year ago due to the state’s controversial transgender laws. What impact did that have on your group and the team?
HH: We were incredibly disappointed in the discriminatory legislation that was passed in Arkansas. In an already challenging time for tourism, it negatively impacted, and continues to impact our industry, which is the state’s second-largest economy. Most importantly, it harms Arkansas’s LGBTQ community and further marginalizes the transgender community. Experience Fayetteville welcomes everyone.
CXM: What are you most looking forward to this weekend?
HH: We are most looking forward to a great weekend of racing and celebrating with thousands of athletes and fans from across the world. We are excited to share our wonderful city with so many people who will be experiencing Fayetteville for the first time! It’s going to be an incredible weekend of competition and camaraderie.
Check out Experience Fayetteville for more information on the race.
CXM: Thank you for taking the time!
See our full coverage of the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas here.