Today comes the latest entry in my Pondering a Sport I Only Just Learned About, wherein I ask the question, what's the best kind of cyclocross course?
I thought of this last weekend, while trying vainly to get up a preview of the Hamme-Zogge course, while solo-parenting the kids for a long weekend and also trying to squeeze in my own race, probably my favorite course I know first hand, in part because I can walk to it from home in about the time it takes to ride a lap. That last part is a significant element of bias, given the complexity of being a one-car family in America, but subtract it out (along with curious flag fetishes) and the Woodland Park GP is still the best race I can think of. Simply put, it's a lovely, natural course with a minimum of gimmickry and a maximal level of fun. I won't grab photos but you can see some here and check out a little phone vid below:
MFG Woodland Park GP
Basically, it's a course which winds through the brooding forest of our nearby park, which happens to sit on the side of a 350-foot-high hill. Between the acreage, the muddy pathways, the grassy fields, and the endless rolling of the terrain, there's a lot to work with. And with such advantages, the course designers have constructed something with a nice, natural feel. Even the dismount involves a log which fell on its own somewhere in the vicinity of where people were attempting to bunny hop it Sunday, with mixed results.
Now, it doesn't make much sense to compare Woodland Park and Hamme-Zogge, since perhaps no single human being has ridden both courses. But it does lead to my own personal conclusion about what makes a nice course: a minimum of gimmickry. I get why the organizers would build a soaring arch of scaffolding for the over-under excitement we saw in Flanders last weekend. I also am cool with the sand pit at Zondhoven. But at the risk of being a newbie-posing-as-purist, I do tend to like the rolling, open courses that just cruise the available landscape. More like an old steeplechase than someone trying to shoehorn a CX course into a poor space. Old Time Crossing!
Eddie Shore Daniel Gousseau! Or something.
So for me the GP Mario De Clerq is my favorite so far. That said, I need to drink in Koksijde and Druivencross -- perhaps others too -- before making up my mind.
OK, what say ye? Simple or gimmicky? Pleasant or tricky? Sand or hills or mud or... what?
Photo by Patrick Verhoest, used with permission