January 10-11, 2015, Austin, Texas, Cyclo-cross - CN

The 2015 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships get underway with a new venue this week - Austin, Texas' Zilker Park - but racers still sporting frostbite memories from previous editions in Boulder, Colorado, Madison, Wisconsin, and especially Bend, Oregon should not expect a hot, dusty day for their title fight. Thanks to a weather phenomenon known as the "polar vortex", the icy cold temperatures from the Great White North are whooshing down the continent, bringing near-freezing conditions and rain to the Lone Star State's capital city.

Zilker Park, like a lot of Texas, is largely flat, but the race organisers have made the most of what little elevation they could find, carving out the course to include two sets of limestone steps and a run down the same embankment with a man-made ramp, the entire time crisscrossing the park's paved roads, making the bunny hop a required skill.

While the park might not see enough rain to turn the course into power-sapping mud, the rain will make turns slick and the unique soils of Texas may not wear in the same way other areas would. Rather than become fast and tacky, the course has the potential to become slipperier as the grass is worn down. Adding to the dangers, where cold and snow might be tolerable with the right clothing, the just above freezing wet conditions will feel colder as riders' clothes get soaked through. In other words, perfect cyclo-cross weather.

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