Skip to main content

USA cyclo-cross national championship course preview

Image 1 of 31

Riders will start out on a long stretch of pavement that is sure to be blisteringly fast.

Riders will start out on a long stretch of pavement that is sure to be blisteringly fast.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 2 of 31

Don't let this official course map fool you. While the race route roughly follows the prescribed path, the actual course is far curvier than depicted here and includes numerous elevation changes.

Don't let this official course map fool you. While the race route roughly follows the prescribed path, the actual course is far curvier than depicted here and includes numerous elevation changes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 3 of 31

After the first stretch of pavement, riders will make an abrupt left on to the dirt and up a short rise-

After the first stretch of pavement, riders will make an abrupt left on to the dirt and up a short rise-
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 4 of 31

-before making another left and rocketing back downhill-

-before making another left and rocketing back downhill-
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 5 of 31

-and making their pass through the pit area.

-and making their pass through the pit area.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 6 of 31

As of Thursday morning, this is what most of the course looked like with hardpacked and choppy snow over completely frozen ground.

As of Thursday morning, this is what most of the course looked like with hardpacked and choppy snow over completely frozen ground.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 7 of 31

After passing through the pits, racers then sweep uphill into a wooded section.

After passing through the pits, racers then sweep uphill into a wooded section.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 8 of 31

Portions of the course are actually snow-free on account of either heavy traffic or being sheltered beneath trees but they're the exception, not the norm.

Portions of the course are actually snow-free on account of either heavy traffic or being sheltered beneath trees but they're the exception, not the norm.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 9 of 31

In contrast to the course map, racers will negotitate a tight lollipop section shortly after entering the woods.

In contrast to the course map, racers will negotitate a tight lollipop section shortly after entering the woods.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 10 of 31

The race course then takes a sharp right, roughly following the adjacent Columbia Street.

The race course then takes a sharp right, roughly following the adjacent Columbia Street.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 11 of 31

At the end of this stretch lies a sharp 180-degree hairpin turn, followed almost immediately by another left hander.

At the end of this stretch lies a sharp 180-degree hairpin turn, followed almost immediately by another left hander.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 12 of 31

This slight rise is more off-camber and slippery than the image would suggest. A carefully selected entry will be key.

This slight rise is more off-camber and slippery than the image would suggest. A carefully selected entry will be key.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 13 of 31

The course is littered with steep ups and downs like this, which should make for excellent spectating.

The course is littered with steep ups and downs like this, which should make for excellent spectating.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 14 of 31

The mid-section of the lap features another fast straightaway in before heading into a series of technical S-bends.

The mid-section of the lap features another fast straightaway in before heading into a series of technical S-bends.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 15 of 31

Riders then will descend into a set of fast sweeping turns.

Riders then will descend into a set of fast sweeping turns.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 16 of 31

This step-up may prove interesting There's a smooth line to rider's right but we anticipate most racers will attack it head-on.

This step-up may prove interesting There's a smooth line to rider's right but we anticipate most racers will attack it head-on.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 17 of 31

Racers will likely want to scrub some speed before heading down this steep chute as there's a quick right-hander immediately following.

Racers will likely want to scrub some speed before heading down this steep chute as there's a quick right-hander immediately following.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 18 of 31

Another set of S-bends snakes up and down the same embankment.

Another set of S-bends snakes up and down the same embankment.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 19 of 31

The race course then heads back down for a second pass through the pit area.

The race course then heads back down for a second pass through the pit area.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 20 of 31

After doubling back on the initial section of dirt, racers will head right and back across the pavement.

After doubling back on the initial section of dirt, racers will head right and back across the pavement.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 21 of 31

Skilled riders will be rocketing through this slightly banked downhill bend.

Skilled riders will be rocketing through this slightly banked downhill bend.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 22 of 31

Racers will be redlined heading up the stairs.

Racers will be redlined heading up the stairs.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 23 of 31

Speeds will slow to a crawl as racers negotitate the tight hairpin shortly after the exit of the stairs.

Speeds will slow to a crawl as racers negotitate the tight hairpin shortly after the exit of the stairs.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 24 of 31

One set of double barriers await the racers as they approach the beer garden.

One set of double barriers await the racers as they approach the beer garden.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 25 of 31

Racers will get a brief respite from the tight corners-

Racers will get a brief respite from the tight corners-
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 26 of 31

-but only just before hitting the run-up, which is likely to be very slippery come Sunday.

-but only just before hitting the run-up, which is likely to be very slippery come Sunday.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 27 of 31

Another right-hand turn brings the course back on to pavement.

Another right-hand turn brings the course back on to pavement.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 28 of 31

One more right-hander to negotiate-

One more right-hander to negotiate-
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 29 of 31

-and then it's a straight shot to the finish line.

-and then it's a straight shot to the finish line.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 30 of 31

Ground conditions were so hard that course workers had to use construction drills to place course markers.

Ground conditions were so hard that course workers had to use construction drills to place course markers.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 31 of 31

If this pavement looks icy, that's because it is.

If this pavement looks icy, that's because it is.
(Image credit: James Huang)

Amateur events kicked off today at the USA cyclo-cross national championships in Bend, Oregon ahead of the weekend's elite races but on a course that is much more technical than listed on the official map.

Though the route generally follows the prescribed layout, race officials have substantially modified – or even truncated – at least half a dozen sections, adding a significant number of corners, abrupt elevation changes, and off-camber stretches to what was already expected to be a demanding course on account of the frigid temperatures and snow cover.

Racers will start out on a long, straight paved section before hooking sharply left on to the dirt and a short rise before taking another left through a long gradual downhill that levels off and sweeps around the pit area before heading uphill into the woods. Here, course designers have added a short and tight 'lollipop' in contrast to the straight line depicted on the map and then a more abrupt chicane before banking right along Columbia Street.

A sharp 180-degree corner and another immediate left (again, another modification) awaits riders at the end of the Columbia Street section before the course meanders up and down the side of a relatively steep embankment. A quick – and very steep – downhill chute then spits riders into another technical S-bend, a tough step-up at the top of another short, steep rise, then another set of abrupt rises and drop plus yet another sweeping S-bend before making a second trip through the pit area.

Four more corners – including one tight and sharply descending right-hander – brings the riders into a tough man-made stair section, more tight turns and a single set of double barriers. Racers will get a very brief respite afterwards from the sharp-radius bends but only just before a run-up section – which will likely be very slippery come Sunday. Afterwards, racers have only a quick jaunt on a paved path before a 90-degree right-hand turn brings them back on the finishing chute.

Depending on conditions, lap times for the elite men are expected to be well under six minutes.

As of Thursday morning, the course was still predominantly lightly covered in hardpacked snow over rock-solid ground but with a definite groove worn in – so much so that bare dirt was visible in several corners, suggesting that the course may be significantly snow-free by Sunday. Even so, properly equipped (and skilled) riders were offering very positive feedback and reporting surprisingly good grip overall but several sections of both dirt and especially pavement were still treacherously – and abruptly – slick in spots.

Temperatures are expected to rise over the next few days to above freezing (in contrast to earlier Arctic-like conditions) but forecasts are also calling for a possible "wintry mix" Friday night into Saturday. In either case, race day will likely favor more technically savvy riders and crashes may play a greater role than usual as the elite racers may have to contend with extremely slippery conditions if the upper layers of ground thaw and mix with remaining snow.

Check out Cyclingnews' walk-through of the course.