The U.S. cyclocross season takes another step up this week in Waterloo, Wisconsin with the Trek CXC Cup, with several prominent Europeans making the trip, including 2016 World Champion Wout van Aert. Zachary Schuster put together a comprehensive preview of Sunday’s C1 course with photos, two videos and optional commentary for fans planning to line the course, and fans hoping to make the trip vicariously through CXM. Strap on your helmet, and join us for a ride at the Trek Factory campus.
by Zachary Schuster
With a little help from a guest groundskeeper, the folks at Trek Bicycle have been getting the Trek World Headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin ready for the fourth annual Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup being held on September 17 and 18.
The Trek CXC Cup kicks off the biggest week in American cyclocross history by serving as a tune up for the Cross Vegas and Jingle Cross World Cup races. (It’s not heaven, it’s Wisconsin, after all.)
Given its proximity to the World Cups, an impressive list of foreign riders, including defending world champion Wout van Aert and runner-up Caroline Mani will be joining defending U.S. champions Katie Compton and Jeremy Powers at the start line for some pre-World Cup CXercise.
The Trek CXC Cup was started in 2013 after the end of the USGP series threatened to take Elite-level cyclocross back across the Cheddar Curtain. Trek volunteered to host the event at their Waterloo headquarters, and the Trek CXC Cup has since blossomed into a top-notch UCI event.
The course was originally constrained by the land available on the Trek property, but following the success of the first two events, Trek has made a major commitment to building a world-class cyclocross venue by purchasing adjacent land and doing significant trail-building work on the property.
The 2016 Trek CXC Cup course includes several features that were introduced last year, including an impressive fly-over and a lung-busting run-up, and introduces several new features that are sure to challenge riders of all abilities. This course preview will run down (or in some cases, run up) some of the features that are back for a return engagement and the new ones that will welcome the Belgians and other European visitors to United States cyclocross.
After a one-year hiatus, the hole shot returns to the pavement of the Trek parking lot (which is famous in its own right, with a dedicated Facebook page). However, instead of heading across the street to the Waterloo retention facility, endearingly nicknamed “the Toilet Bowl” by local cyclocross wordsmith Greg Ferguson, it will head on to the Trek property toward the ridge that runs the length of the Trek property.
Lest riders be concerned that the hole shot bypasses the Trek Factory Hill, never fear, because subsequent laps will venture down and then right back up the steep embankment that has become a spectator favorite. The last two years the Trek Factory Hill has had a series of off-camber, downhill switchbacks that riders had to navigate. This year, the Factory Hill will have more of a straight shot down and then a series of uphill switchbacks that will challenge riders’ power and gearing choice (or for many, running ability).
The technical part of the course really starts to kick into gear after the riders pass the pit and head up to the top of the ridge toward the awaiting flyover. The flyover is a challenging ride-over that requires riders to dig a little deeper to generate some power after a deceptively hard climb up from the parking lot. Technical features await riders after the flyover, so the first lap will likely see enough watts being generated to power the old-school Sven tractor as riders vie for a good position heading into the woods.
After summiting the fly-over, the course heads toward the woods in the northeast portion of the Trek property, where riders will get to navigate the first of the features constructed by the Trek trail crew. The elites will head down a steep, challenging off-camber, while the afternoon riders will ride a steep descent that takes a sharp left turn at the bottom out toward the loading dock area.
As they say in physics and rock songs, a steep decent must be followed by a steep run-up. Riders who raced at Trek in 2015 certainly remember the steep run-up adjacent to the Trek Factory loading dock (locally known as the “Loathing Dock,)” and if they don’t they will certainly remember the first time they hit the course for a pre ride. Based on a completely non-scientific survey of spectators present in 2015, only Jake Wells was able to ride the entirety of the Loathing Dock hill, so it is steep and by about lap four riders will loathe having to summit it yet again.
Once riders ascend the Loathing Dock hill, more technical challenges await, with a tricky off-camber with multiple lines to choose from and a tough left-hand turn into a short, steep uphill. The course then ventures back under the flyover and heads back into the woods where riders have to contend with a strategically-placed berm, a sketchy off-camber downhill, and a newly-constructed set of stairs.
After several sections highlighted by technical features, the last third of the course has more of a Go! (I borrowed it from the Svenness videos, ok) vibe to it. Riders will pass the pit and then hammer toward a section of the woods the locals are calling “Little Zolder.” As seen in the picture, Little Zolder will have its own “choose your own adventure” aesthetic, as riders are given the choice of multiple lines that weave through the trees.
Although Robert Frost once wrote “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” in cyclocross it is often best to take the road more traveled, especially as the pro line through a section like Little Zolder emerges.
Once riders emerge from Little Zolder, there is another section brought to you by the word Go! and then riders hit the Trek parking lot to be greeted by the legendary race announcing of Dave Towle. Any time Dave Towle is on the mic, you know the start-finish is brought to you by the word OnetoGoOnetoGoOnetoGo.
Based on the current design, the Trek CXC Cup laps should be about eight to nine minutes. Fortunately for riders, Wisconsin is known for its excellent beer, so whether the suffering be 30, 45, or 60 minutes, riders will have the opportunity to celebrate Wisconsibly at the end of their respective rides.
A video preview of the course, with Category 1 quality commentary is below:
Want to watch a lap of the course with rider and bike sounds, but without commentary? Here you go:
Information about the Trek CXC Cup can be found at trekcxccup.com.