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Is it worthy? Riders, officials reflect on Louisville worlds site

Top riders and officials say the Louisville worlds venue is very difficult, but some say it could better suit Americans with some changes

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (VN) — After another successful weekend of racing in Louisville, Kentucky, which has hosted a stop of the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross since 2008, the question on everyone’s mind was the same: will this make a good course for the elite world championships in February? For each of the last three years, Louisville 2013 and USGP series organizer Bruce Fina has tweaked the course to take advantage of the natural ramps and embankments, bumps and fields, to craft the most interesting and difficult course that can be had at Eva Bandman Park. So what did the racers think about the latest iteration? Is it worthy?

We asked that question of the top men and women from the United States and those international riders who were racing in the U.S (and who have plenty of World Cup and world championship experience on some of the world’s toughest tracks). Inevitably, the topic came around to whether the course suited the Americans. Was this a course that would benefit an American rider? Or was this course “Euro”?

Here’s what they had to say.

Tim Johnson (, first American podium finisher at cyclocross worlds:
“I like the features. But this is a course that, as it is now, will see the front row win. We need a course that expands and contracts. Jeremy [Powers] needs a course where it’s on and off. This is the most Euro course we’ve ever seen in America. We need a course that keeps it together for 50 minutes; that’s how we’ll do well at a worlds race.”

Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement), multiple-time World Cup winner:
“It’s fast. Very Euro. I like the sand, but that’s not very American. The course itself is not very American because it doesn’t have many twists and turns. It’s super fast. If the weather is different in February then it will be a different story.”

Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective), U.S. national champion, two-time worlds silver medalist:
“They’ve used as much of the terrain as they can. There’s twisty, there’s some nice, fast pedal sections, which is good, off and on the bike. It pretty much packs the technical and power skills and racing smarts, too, so yeah, I think it’s good. There’s a good combination of turns and straightaways. And I’ve ridden a ton of American courses that don’t have turns and aren’t technical. I think they’ve done a good job and it’s a good combination of all that. I’m happy. I think they’re definitely thinking about the Americans and making sure they have a good course, one that’s world championship-quality course. There are a lot of European courses for other riders, so the U.S. might as well make the most of it and lay out a course that suits our style.”

Gabby Day (Rapha-Focus):
“It’s definitely very challenging; it’s very hard. There’s not a massive amount where you can recover on this course. It’s kind of just tough all the time and then you’re changing your rhythm all the time because there’s, like, four dismounts and I guess if it got really muddy there’d be a lot more, like on the off-camber section. So, I think it’s tough; it’s real tough. You need be on really good form. It compares really well to other world championship courses I’ve done… It would have been nice if they had kept it more U.S. style because we’ve had so many Euro worlds.”

Georgia Gould (Luna):
“I like the course; it’s hard. I think it’s definitely going to crown a worthy champion. If it were muddy and slower, it would definitely benefit the people starting in the back, but then it’s a whole lot harder, it turns into a total power course. I think it has a good, American flavor, a lot of on and off the bike. A lot of people are saying, ‘it’s a total Euro course,’ but I’m like, ‘I’ve never done a race in Europe where you were off and on the bike this much.’ Every race I’ve done in Europe you were off the bike like once and it was for about two steps. The ones I did in Europe were like crits and this is not that at all. Physically it’s just a demanding course; there’s nowhere to rest. You can pedal hard the whole time, and when you aren’t pedaling you’re going hard up a run-up or you’re on a short, bumpy downhill, so it’s not really resting. You can always be going harder and you can always be digging deeper.”

Philippe Märien, UCI chief commissaire for Louisville 2013 and the Derby City Cup:
“I guess it is worthy [of being a world championship course]. The only thing now is that it’s very fast. I was here for the masters world championships in January and we had four seasons in four days, so it was totally different. Now, they’re doing six minutes or so per lap, which is very fast, but it’s quite technical in the end and very good. There’s no difference between an American course and a European course, and this is a very good course. There’s no issue. You will never have the perfect course and you never should make the perfect course because you like the ‘X’ one and I like the ‘Y’ one and there’s not one that’s liked by everybody.”

Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus), U.S. U23 national champion, after the first day of racing:
“It’s all right; it’s getting there. It’s all based on the first third of a lap, which is kind of weird. The three run-ups in the first half, which is interesting, I’ve never seen that. There’s four times to get off your bike, which is a lot. Definitely American, but they strung it out; a lot better than last year’s course. A couple longish sections, which is nice and kind of more European style. The first kilometer is interesting, off the start, over the ridiculous bump that everyone is going ‘ER’ on, up the railroad ties, immediately into the long sand section, immediately into the flyover. It’s an interesting combo for sure.”

Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), U.S. national champion, seventh in Tabor World Cup in October:
“I like it. They’re both very challenging courses [the course was slightly modified from one day to the next – Ed]. I don’t design the courses, I just find the best lines to have the best races. I’ll be back here January 3 and will be riding this thing everyday.”

Helen Wyman (Kona), recently crowned European cyclocross champion:
“I like it. I think all of the technical sections are really, really good. I think the only thing, if they were going to change anything between now and worlds, I’d say change these two long straight sections in the field because they’re so un-American, it’s ridiculous. For the first time ever, you guys have got the opportunity to make the course and showcase everything that [Americans] are good at, and why not do it? Why not put more corners in; you guys are famous for having corners in your races. Put more in; don’t have long straights that suit Eurpoeans, because Europeans are going to make courses that suit them every year for the next 20 years before you have another worlds in the U.S. So, make a course that suits your guys. All the technical bits, all the little woody sections, off-cambers, I think they’re really, really good and they’ll suit [Americans] really well. But this bit after the start, this long straight and then loop back, I just think it doesn’t really do anything.”

Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna):
“It’s very fast, super fast, which will make it challenging. If everyone is saying that it’s hard, which is most of what I’ve heard, that usually makes it worthy. Is it un-American? I don’t know about that. I haven’t done any European racing, however, I’ve always liked the venues here at Louisville and I don’t think it’s fair to lay it out as ‘this is how Europeans race and this is how Americans race.’ Ultimately, you have to be good at riding everything across the board, no matter who you are or where you’re from, so if this course doesn’t fit certain people, then they should figure out how to ride it in the next few months.”