by Ted Burns

The venue, the nightly events and the welcoming vibe of Bend were something that the Oregon promoters perfected, but another year later finds us moving to the arms of Madison, Wisconsin, and a different kind of event.

Badger Prairie Park, the race venue, is located just south of Madison in between farms and the suburbs of Verona. The reclaimed prairie does not have the urban vibe of Bend, but it is easy to access and there should be plentiful parking. The park is a short drive from Madison, 15 minutes in traffic, and should be a fantastic venue for teams and spectators to set up shop. Verona’s small downtown is a skip and a hop away, so access to beer and food during the day will be easily accessible.

Compared to Bend, Madison is a bustling metropolis. Its population supports one of the largest universities in the US, as well as the state capital of Wisconsin. It has the entertainment and dining options that rival any major city and still maintains an accessible feel that made Bend so special. If it is your first time to Madison and you want to get a feel for the town, check out State Street which runs from the capital towards the university. It is filled with shops, restaurants, bars and the vibe will take you back to your college days.

Several small towns within driving distance of the race venue and Madison are worth checking out if you have time. New Glarus is an old Swiss Colony with one of the best breweries in the state. A little west of Madison is Middleton which offers an old school downtown with first rate food and shopping. If you are an adventurous tourist type Taliesin, the home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is an hours drive west of the city.

If there is a freak turn of weather, and the temperature shoots up to 50 or 60 degrees, then there are a lot of areas to explore on bike. The cycling paths run around the entire city, and out into the nether regions of Wisconsin. A $4 trail pass is required once you are outside of the confines of Dane County trail system, but there are few check points during the winter months, so ride the trails with that in mind. In additions to the trails, the proposed Olympic Road Race course for the ill-fated Chicago bid is a Milan San Remo type of classic in the making. The flat then uber-hilly course ends in the Blue Mounds west of the city. Check it out now since this course may get incorporated into the elite men’s and women’s USAC races scheduled for Madison in 2013 and 2014.

If you get sick of worrying about tire width and watching the lines through all the corners change with every race, venture out into Madison and the surrounding towns where you can find the widest array of food, entertainment and culture outside of Chicago.

Stay tuned for more details, and be sure to keep up on the latest Nationals news through Cyclocross Magazine’s coverage of the event on our 2012 Cyclocross National Championships page.