This past weekend's races at the US Gran Prix of Cyclocoss Derby City Cup in Louisville, Kentucky's Eva Bandman Park provided racers, spectators and UCI personnel a dry run at what will be the course and venue for the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships on February 2-3. "Dry" was the operative word for Saturday's and Sunday's events as sunshine and warm weather created a lightning-fast circuit devoid of a single drop of moisture to soften the course and provide additional technical challenges.
Of course, the following Monday morning Louisville was ensconced in a heavy, soaking rain as many of the weekend's racers were making their way to the airport, but if the Masters world championships held this past January are anything to go by, then the elite Worlds competitors should have plenty of moisture to contend with, likely in the form of snow and ice.
With that in mind, there were still plenty of opinions regarding the Eva Bandman Park venue with the general consensus that the first-ever 'cross Worlds to be hosted outside of Europe will be contested on a well-constructed, challenging circuit.
Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) - reigning US elite women's 'cross champion, winner both days at USGP Derby City Cup
"I think it's a good course. They made the most out of the terrain and used a lot of off-camber and up-and-down sections. It's a good mix of technical stuff and pedalling sections. It's fast and it's hard. There's definitely some good lines in there, the sand definitely wears on you.
"It's the kind of sand that fell back into itself so the ruts constantly filled in as you rode through it, but all the girls running on it just makes it worse. I was definitely struggling to find the lines, especially towards the end. I was missing the ruts that were burned in at some point, but that's what happens
"I think right now it's set up well and I think in February weather will have a big impact on how it actually rides. If it gets muddy and slick it will be a completely different course. For me I always like heavy mud, techy courses - that's what I do better on - but Worlds is always a different animal because everyone comes in on form, rested and ready to ride fast.
"I'm really happy to race the course, get a feel for it, and kind of know what's ahead of me. I was just riding to make sure I could attack certain sections of the course, thinking about the world championships and where I'd attack, where I need to recover and making sure I could ride the sand pit and push in certain sections. I was really trying to be smooth - getting the shifting down, the braking down, the lines down."
Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) - reigning US elite men's 'cross champion, winner both days at USGP Derby City Cup
"I feel that it's a better course than they've ever had here, they broke out a lot of stuff. There will be some small improvements, but some of the features today will definitely be at the world championships and that's the most we could ask for. To have a dry run on a course that we're going to go for the rainbow-stripes on, we're all very lucky.
"The course suits me - the small, punchy climbs, the sand , the run-up. Everything suits me well and I think that's why I've had success here. Obviously no course is your perfect course, you just do the best that you can, but this definitely has a lot of features that suit my style really well.
"The [limestone] steps over there I was riding every lap, just pushing myself to do that even though I was really tired at the end of the race I felt that was worth doing because that's something I really want to be able to nail like 110 percent every time for Worlds - it's an advantage for me."
Helen Wyman (Kona) - European 'cross champion, British 'cross champion, fourth place finisher both days in elite women's USGP Derby City Cup
"I think the course is harder than it looks. I think it's an awesome course apart from the one section just after the start - that long straight where you then do a U-ey and then go back again. I think if they turned that American-style with lots of twists and turns to it, nowhere near as wide as it is, I think that would make it an absolutely awesome course. It's just a straight, wide line. It doesn't do anything. (Several tight corners were added at that turn's apex on the second day - Ed.)
"All the technical parts are quite good, but you've still got room to get around.
"For years the Europeans have been holding the 'cross world championships and they've made the courses to suit their riders in that country at the time. You guys probably won't have this opportunity again for another 20 years, so make it American. Put 150 corners in! That's what you have in all your races normally. Make it American and show the Euros 'this is how we see 'cross'. Make it suit your riders because an American winning a world championship in America is just an awesome thing and such a good thing for the sport in general."
Ryan Trebon (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld) - elite men's runner-up on Saturday's USGP Derby City Cup
"I definitely think it's a Worlds-quality potential to have it out here with some tweaks to the course: it's a little on the shorter side now and I hope it gets a little more precipitation. The ground is really hard out here right now and it makes it really fast. It actually makes it a little harder to ride because the surface is so firm that I was having a lot of rear wheel sliding problems. I prefer it a little softer, it would make it a little more technical and slow the race down in general, too."
Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team) - eilte men's fourth place finisher on Saturday's USGP Derby City Cup
"It's still a great course [in dry conditions]. There's still plenty of technical challenges and line selection out there. It could be a little bit more open in places to maybe leave more options. Like this tight stuff's pretty one line, but it's probably going to be wet in the winter and it will be difficult and interesting for sure. There's fast pedalling, there's turny stuff, there's a bunch of transitions on and off the bike - I'd say it's legit. If feels like a Belgian course next to a canal on a big embankment, but we're here on the Ohio River."
Logan Owen (Redline) - reigning US Junior 'cross champion, Junior men's winner both days at USGP Derby City Cup
"I like the course, I can't wait for Worlds this year. It definitely has potential, but we've got to get the spectators out. We've got to tell the people in Kentucky and around Kentucky to come down and let them know it's a really huge event. That's what makes cyclo-cross so much fun is having all the spectators out here.
"[On day 2] I loved that they switched the sand section around because it was more challenging for people. It was rideable, but it was definitely tough. It felt like more of a Worlds course today. I enjoyed it, had a good time, and wish there were more days to race here.
"Being that it's my home course - well, sort of home course being on the same continent - I feel like I can definitely beat him (reigning Junior world champion Mathieu van der Poel) here. I'm building up for it all year long. I've got my coach Joel Holmes helping me do that and I feel that it's going to be a good one."
Geoff Proctor - US Junior/U23 national team coach, UCI Cyclo-cross Commission member, Euro 'Cross Camp director
"The organisers and support crew have really done their homework. Not only is the course well-designed, but aspects not readily apparent to the spectator are set.
"There is well-positioned national team and professional team parking, easy access from parking to pit for mechanics, adequate capability for power washers. The venue's overall footprint is more compact than many European races, so the atmosphere will be intense and special. With its short, punchy climbs, grinding sand section, and power flats. It's a course that will favor both technique and tactics.
"Louisville is one of the most friendly, vibrant cities in America. The people are incredibly gracious and hospitable. There's a lot of energy building for this event and the hope is that the sporting public and cyclo-cross supporters from around the world will come together to create an unforgettable experience.
Adam Myerson (Team SmartStop/Mountain Khakis) - pro cyclist, race promoter, coach and former UCI Cyclo-cross Commission member
"I definitely think it's a world championship course. We know that the weather's going to be really different and it's difficult to judge how it is now, but if we just look at in dry conditions how technically challenging the course is it's really impressive how the venue has evolved and the physical changes they've made to the landscape.
"I don't feel like I've ever done a technically demanding course in the dry as this is. It's really impressive, actually. It took me about three or four warm-up laps before I really had my head around the course and on a dry course that says something. Then when you think about the weather they had at Masters Worlds it's going to be technically challenging for the racers and exciting for the spectators.
"Maybe the only thing they'll have to address is making the course slightly longer - the six-minute lap times might me a little bit short. You've got to figure at Worlds they're going to be going 15 to 30 seconds faster a lap, so that's going to be a little short."