The final test run for the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross Championships is being held this weekend at Eva Bandman Park in Louisville, Kentucky. The Trek US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Derby City Cup offers up a chance for racers and spectators alike on Saturday and Sunday to experience the course that will be used for the world championships to be contested February 2-3, 2013.
Eva Bandman Park has been the site for previous UCI-sanctioned cyclo-cross races but this weekend will be the first time that the course designed for Louisville 2013 will be tested in race conditions. Warm, dry conditions will be on offer this weekend, however, making the course lightning-fast and according to Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld pro Tim Johnson conducive to pack riding and a tactical outcome, but that's fine with Bruce Fina, Louisville 2013 Executive Director.
"The riders have seen a lot of mud in the last few weeks so they're happy to have it be dry and the other part was, one concern we had was we didn't want to tear the park to bits three months before the Worlds," Fina told Cyclingnews. "We'll have [inclement] weather in January and then we won't have to worry about after that.
"The goal when we designed the Louisville 2013 course was to make a competitive course that is fair for everyone. Though last year's USGP didn't use the same course, it utilized many of the same features. I talked to Katie Compton, Ryan Trebon Jeremy Powers and everybody said the features were good, and that it would be a good race. Simply the best racer is going to win."
While a handful of Europeans have made the trip to Louisville, most notably British champion and recently crowned European champion Helen Wyman (Kona), the stalwarts of the Euro men's field have opted to stay overseas. While an equal amount of UCI points are on offer on both sides of the pond, with the USGP operating a C1-ranked race on Saturday followed by the C2 edition on Sunday while in Belgium there's the C2 Fidea Jaarmarktcross Niel on Saturday and the C1 Superprestige Hamme-Zogge on Sunday, it comes down to the question of money.
"Actually, I'm a little surprised there aren't any Belgians here to see what this course looks like and to understand it," said Fina. "But money talks - they can race at home and make a few grand this weekend and they're not going to spend a few grand to come over here.
'We have some pretty competitive riders in the U.S., both men and women, and the chance to have the Worlds in the U.S. will make them that much more competitive. I truly think that some of the Europeans - not all, but some of them - don't have their travel legs, whereas our guys they live with travel legs."
The Eva Bandman Park venue has had additional permanent fixtures added to the grounds in preparation for Worlds, and Fina had nothing but praise for the Louisville Metro Parks staff's zeal and enthusiasm. On display this weekend are a permanent fly-over, a railroad tie run-up, a limestone steps run-up, frost-proof spigots for water in the pits plus native sand dunes and grasses.
"That's the only part I'm sad about not having mud this weekend is the chance to show off the pit wash," said Fina. "The city parks ran two inch water lines down there, underground and below the frost level, and it has frost-proof spigots. There are three frost-proof spigots down there that can run 10 or 12 power washers off of them, there's enough flow and pressure.
"Then there's a built-up bed with drainage, it's like a built-up flower bed with gravel with French drains underneath that run out to the river. It's amazing. We had such a mess at Masters Worlds with the weather - freezing and thawing and everything else that made the bike wash a challenge and it also made a mess on the grounds with no proper drainage. The parks department took a look at that and said 'we can clean that up and make that nice'.
"Every time I turn around and have an idea they say 'well let's do it'. They've done that with every single thing: the stone staircase, the flyover. The flyover used to be 16 feet across the top and it's a big, chunky steel thing. A couple of people made the comment that you lost your momentum because you couldn't remount in time before you went down the other side. Marty from the [Metro] Parks heard that and I told him it's not a must, but he said 'we want to make it perfect'. They got the cutting torch out, cut it apart, added length on to the top of, put it back together and painted it.
"They're going to re-seed a lot of what we use this weekend and grow more grass between now and January - just to make it look nicer."