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Johnson welcomes World Championships Stateside

American champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale - descending.

American champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale - descending. (Image credit: Dave McElwaine)

United States of America's National Cyclo-cross Champion, Tim Johnson ( welcomes the International Cycling Union (UCI) Cyclo-Cross World Championships to Louisville, Kentucky in 2013. It will be the first time the world's stage will set up on American soil.

"As someone who has seen our American cross scene grow to a boil for the last 15 years, it meant so much to be standing there while Pat McQuaid made the selection official," Johnson told Cyclingnews. "Cyclo-Cross is a different animal in the US and having the World Championships will give all of us, from athletes to fans, something incredible to shoot for."

UCI President Pat McQuaid announced the Cyclo-Cross World Championships would be held in Eva Bandman Park in Louisville, Kentucky in 2013. The planned course will be held in a park nearby the US Grand Prix of Cyclo-Cross (USGP) Derby City Cup held in Champions Park.

"I have seen the park which will host the race, it's similar to the current course we use but with more elevation and will have established course features of a world class race venue, stairs, paved start straights, pit areas," Johnson said. "It will be a permanent Cyclocross race and practice venue much like Valmont Park in Boulder. One thing that will set it apart from many of the worlds venues I've been to is that it will be within a couple kilometres of a large downtown city with nice hotels and restaurants. The sports commision there is very excited and committed to making Louisville a city known for cycling."

Bruce Fina and Joan Hanscom are the organizers of the USGP, an eight round series herald as the most well-run events in the country. Its includes double weekends at the Planet Bike Cup in Madison, Wisconsin, the Derby City Cup in Louisville, Kentucky, the Mercer Cup in New Jersey and the Stanley Portland Cup in Oregon. Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) won this year's overall title. Johnson, a long-time member of the US National Team has been working with Fina and Hanscom for six years on the national and international cyclo-cross stage.

"I went along with Bruce Fina and Joan Hanscom to hear [Pat] McQuaid make the formal announcement in front of the assembled dignitaries there for meetings about other world championships locations," Johnson said. "I was introduced by Bruce and he mentioned the story of how he came to worlds in Poprad as a spectator, with Stu Thorne, watching me compete and win my bronze medal. He worked since then on the USGP and as team manager for the US team in hopes of preparing US riders for the world champs and its higher level of competition."

The USGP has radically helped foster and improve the traditionally European-based sport of cyclo-cross in the US. Other notable and attractive US events now include Cross-Vegas and the North American Cyclo-Cross Trophy (NACT), a ten-round series that includes FSA Star Crossed and Rad Racing GP, Gran Prix of Gloucester, Toronto International Cyclo-Cross, Blue Sky Velo Cup and Boulder Cup and the Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross Cup. Johnson won the NACT overall title this year.

Hosting the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships will no doubt continue the development of cyclo-cross in the US over the next three years. "We will have a goal to work towards, across the board," Johnson said. "It's going to give riders a clearly visible goal. In comparison, when I began racing cross, a 'world championship' was something exotic and seemed far away in terms of time and distance. Now, I can imagine an entire class of young American cyclists having that idea changed and brought to the tip of their fingers."

Cyclo-Cross' European greats have been participating in North American cyclo-cross for nearly a decade. Former World Champion, Erwin Vervecken was one of the first Belgian cyclo-cross talents to cross the Atlantic in 2001. He has spent four of the last eight years racing cyclo-cross in September in the US to gain early fitness during the pre-European season and collecting valuable UCI points ahead of the his competitors. Stateside cyclo-cross has increased in popularity and attracted other European-based 'cross riders, including retired Italian Daniele Pontoni, Christian Heule, Joachim Parbo and Tim van Nuffel.

It has been reported that seven-time Belgian National Champion Sven Nys would delay his retirement from 2012 until after the 2013 Cyclo-Cross World Championships. Likewise, Johnson has pledged to continue his cyclo-cross career over the next three years, after which he may decide to hang up his wheels.

"I'll definitely be there," Johnson said. "Personally, it would be a great way to bookend my career. If someone as classy and influential [as Sven Nys] has decided to continue racing until the day worlds moved off the continent, then that shows just how much a race means to our sport. I'd be honored to race and be successful on home turf!"

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.