This past weekend, the Louisville 2013 course was put through its paces by the Trek US Gran Prix of Cyclocross p/b Greenware® and WD-40 Bike in Louisville. Starting at 8 am every morning, hundreds of racers, of all ages and categories, tested themselves against the world-caliber course. For some, making it to the finish was success, for others, it was about the victory and for a few, it was a chance to prepare themselves for the upcoming 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships which will be held on the same course on February 2 and 3, 2013.
The challenging course at the Eva Bandman Park was 99 percent similar to the Louisville 2013 course according to Executive Director Bruce Fina. It included a long sandpit, barriers, a run-up with railroad ties, another one with four limestone stairs, off-camber sections, a fly-over, many ups and downs, twists and turns and no recovery.
The pro-riders agreed, the course was worthy of a World Championship.
US cyclo-cross national champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) described the course as complete. "The course has a bit of everything, it's very fast but there are also some very hard sections." he said. "The venue is perfect, it is world championships level. I think that Saturday and Sunday showed that no matter which way you run the course, it's going to be hard for a true world champion to come out of this race."
Powers - who swept the weekend's races - used the limestone stairs to his advantage by riding them when his opponents were off their bike running. A strategy that might make a difference at Worlds. "It's just one of those things that I want to push myself to be better. When I'm here in February, if I can nail that perfectly, that will be a big advantage coming into Worlds. Those stairs are not moving," he laughed, "those stairs are going to be the exact same way."
Eight-time and reigning US champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) also liked the course. "I think it's challenging. I think it's a good mix of technical stuff and power sections."
She appreciated the changes on day two when a few corners were added at the beginning and the long sandpit was run in reverse direction, making it uphill. " I think the added turns at the start were a good addition, the sandpit was definitely harder, it got heavier towards the end and then you turned into the pavement with a headwind. It's like insult to injury right there. So you tried to push it there and keep pushing to the top."
Compton, who claimed solo wins each day in dominating fashion, rode consistent laps, testing herself against the course. "I was just riding to make sure I could attack certain sections of the course and try to think about the World Championships, where I could attack and where I needed to recover. And then making sure I could ride the sandpit and push in certain sections. I was mainly trying to focus to be smooth, get the shifting down, get the lines down."
Third-place on Sunday, Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com) agreed. "I think the course is ready, it has everything you need for a really solid event. The course can handle whatever four races can throw at it, it's shown in two days of eight, nine races at a time can do."
"Louisville is perfect for it, it's small but it's got everything you can possibly need." added the veteran who has a special connection to the city. "The first year we came here, a lot of questions were on why we were going to Kentucky for but I went to school here. Kentucky has a really passionate cycling community."
Second on Saturday, Johnson's teammate Ryan Trebon commented, "I definitely think that it's Worlds quality potential to have it out there. I think some tweaks to the course, it's a little on the short side now and I hope it gets a little more precipitation. The ground is really hard out here right now and it makes it really fast, it's actually makes it a little hard to ride because the surface is so firm, I was a lot of rear-wheel sliding problems. I prefer it to be a little softer, it would make it a little more technical and slow the race down a little bit as well too." (Watch Trebon talk about the course after pre-riding on Friday).
The weekend's weather was unseasonably warm, with temperatures hovering in the mid to 70s and very fast and dry racing conditions. But who knows what mother nature will bring in February?
"One thing you learn about cyclocross when you do it for a lot of years is never say never, I don't really know what to expect. I guess last year for Masters Worlds, it was very muddy and then the next weekend it was dry and 65 F and sunny, so it's hard to nail it down here in Louisville. I'll be ready for whatever weather comes our way. I hope that it's fast, it suits me well and fingers crossed for that." Powers concluded.