For the second year in a row the UCI Cyclocross World Cup kicked off in the U.S. The world’s best rolled into Iowa City for Jingle Cross and then raced in the sweltering Midwestern heat at the Trek CX Cup in Madison, Wisconsin. What’s it like to start the season on home turf? We asked four top American pros for their takes.
Madison vs. Cross Vegas as a World Cup: Which did you prefer and why?
Jeremy Powers: I think that Madison was an excellent venue for a World Cup. The World Cup should come and go as if it were a selection for a couple of years and then move on. Cross Vegas did incredible work, and it brought the World Cup to our industry. Iowa and Waterloo are doing the same but in a completely different demographic and are really bringing the event to the people. The most important thing we’re doing is including amateur racing in our WC schedules; it’s our way of making cyclocross popular and engaging with the American fans and having them participate. I think that’s so important to stress.
Stephen Hyde: Vegas was always a great event to attend whether as a spectator or as a rider. However, it’s always good to keep things fresh. I feel like it was time to move on, as short as its World Cup life was … I really enjoyed the Waterloo course. It’s a challenge to more than just the underpowered. Both have their own charms and tortures but I think Waterloo is a great race.
Katie Compton: They were both run really well, and the production was great. Athletes were taken care of, the promoters made it easy for the Europeans — we don’t get that much help when we go to Europe! I think I like [Madison] better because I liked the venue better, and I don’t like Las Vegas at all. Sure, you get the Interbike crowd and the party atmosphere, so there is the fun factor. [Madison] felt like the crowd was racers who race their bikes and came to watch and cheer. It felt like specific cyclocross fans. Great course, and good beer — not cheap, watered-down beer.
Elle Anderson: I like the Wisconsin course a lot. At the Trek headquarters, they have a bit more terrain to work with than Cross Vegas. Even though the Wisconsin course was dry and hard, and the weather was about the same as Las Vegas, the technical features of the course were challenging and demanding. Paired with the heat, I think Wisconsin put on quite the show.
How do you compare the courses there to what you’d find in Europe?
Jeremy: The courses to Europe are of course … Euro! Our courses were very difficult and the best riders won each weekend. I think that the courses in the United States especially Iowa are very similar to Namur World Cup, and I would rank the course in Waterloo similar to a faster race like Loenhout/Azencross. Both races still had incredible features, were very challenging, and if we had some rain or precipitation, it would have been a different thing altogether at both venues!
Stephen: The courses here in the U.S. have come a long way. Much less swoopy long turns and much more technically difficult lines. I would only say that the weather varies much more between Europe and the U.S.
Katie: These were legit World Cup courses. It’s hard to make them tough when there is no mud or sand or bad weather, but the off-camber tricky descents in Waterloo and the climbing in Iowa were both hard. It wasn’t a step down. No, we weren’t in the right part of the world for mud pits, but you don’t need bad weather to make a good course.
Elle: Both of the U.S. World Cup courses this year are comparable to courses in Europe, no question. Really, the main difference was the weather: The crazy heatwave caused atypical sweaty and intense conditions for cyclocross compared to Europe’s more mild fall and chilly winter weather, and usually the comparable European courses have been rained on regularly.
What are memories and/or scenes from the crowds/atmosphere in Madison and Iowa that stand out?
Jeremy: Truthfully I can’t remember a time that we saw that many fans at a venue at one time, which gives me great pride to see that a lot of the collective effort that we’ve done as a group to build up the sport of cyclocross in the United States is working. When the best from the world come together to create entertainment, we were able to draw and bring a crowd to a venue regardless of where it’s placed. I think for many years Cross Vegas was seen as a big race, but it was also seen as having a built-in audience from Interbike (Which was and still is, AWESOME). I think the World Cups in Iowa and Waterloo stand on their own legs as being proof that the best athletes all participated and want to win, and that had value to fans in the U.S.
I also heard from some Euro riders that American fans are kinder and have a different vibe than European fans; European fans tend to be more like mainstream American sports fans and only cheer for the front of the race. I think that goes back to the fans being participants and being happy to have the Euros over here racing. I really love the fans and the energy they brought to the weekend, it was special to experience, especially in Iowa and Waterloo.
Stephen: I really get a kick out of running into the Euro riders out on the roads or in the hotels. It kinda fills me with pride to see riders from around the world coming to race what we have built. The crowds in both Iowa and Waterloo were pretty great. I hope they got a good show!
Katie: It’s unfortunate because I had a bad day, but the whole equal prize money thing really stands out. It’s the first World Cup to have done it, all the way from the winner to 40th place. That is huge. I don’t know how much we appreciate it. There is such a huge discrepancy between what women and men win, so I’m really happy with that. Hopefully it can lead to more events [offering equal payouts].
Elle: The hammocks hanging in the trees for a few lucky spectators in Wisconsin, and the Grinch sightings in Iowa!
How does starting the World Cup season off with two American races impact the overall calendar?
Jeremy: Overall it makes it really busy and chaotic for American programs; for us with Vegas, it’s really busy. Ellen [Noble] did great at all three events, so it’s possible if you plan and take care of yourself. Ninety-five percent of the Euro riders stayed in the Iowa/Madison area between the races. With regards to the overall calendar, it’s the same for everyone, so we just get on with it! Take it as it comes.
Stephen: I think it breaks up the calendar a bit. Makes a few big gaps early and allows everyone to regroup and focus on their national series races, which is nice. It’s a bit early to have to be in top top form. So it makes it difficult to train for an effective year-long campaign, especially with the travel later in the year. With all these races on Friday too, I am not sure when we’re supposed to train? One day we will figure out the schedule…
Katie: It’s the most convenient way to get two World Cups on our American schedule, given the European schedule. It’s really hard because we don’t have any preparation races before these World Cups, and the temperature is really hot. It’s hard to race cyclocross in the heat — we like colder temperatures. So that sucks for everyone. From a logistics perspective it’s a really good spot.
Elle: I don’t race much in the U.S. any more, so I’m grateful that I get the opportunity to race at the very top level in my home country to kick off the season. It wasn’t long ago that there were zero World Cups outside of Europe!