Is it too early to get excited about the World Championships? Not if you're in the US, it's not. And not if you love cross, for this weekend one of the biggest race weekends on the US calendar features the same exact course that will be used in the UCI World Championships in February. In the same way that we got a preview of last year's World Championships at the World Cup race in Koksijde, you can get a sneak peek in Louisville this weekend, albiet without the top European racers.
What did I say earlier about the course?
Type: Field, Flyover, Sandy, Twisty
2011 Day 1: Powers, Trebon, Johnson
2011 Day 2: Powers, Wells, Kabush
Pay attention! Worlds will be here in Eva Bandman Cyclocross Park in a mere three months. Worlds, in the United States! This has been a perennial USGP stop for some years now. The course is typically American - twistier than Euro courses, though not necessarily more technical. There are sand pits, evil sand pits atop a steep hill, a trickery-filled run/ride-up, and the Green Monster, the venue's venerable flyover. I can't recall a muddy USGP race here, but it was a total slog-fest at Masters Worlds last February. Nasty, derailleur-eating mud, but the organizers have improved drainage since then. Boo.
There have been some changes to the course since last year, all aimed at making the course a more deserving World Championships venue while still retaining that classic American flavor. There are several run-ups on course, a possibly lengthened sand pit, and some tough off camber sections to break up twisty field riding. The Louisville 2013 twitter account posted a number of pictures of course setup on November 7 so you can scroll down and check things out.
What about the racing? On the men's side, Jeremy Powers goes into the weekend as series leader, having won three of the four events thus far. Coming off the best ever finish by an American male at a World Cup (7th in Plzen), he should have the form to win at least one day on a course that is perfectly suited for him. But Ryan Trebon, who ran Powers close at day one of the last USGP weekend, has avoided traveling to Europe, opting instead to spend the time training and winning two of three days at the Cincy3 Cyclocross Festival series of UCI races last weekend. Though the usual suspects - Tim Johnson, Chris Jones, Zach McDonald, Jamey Driscoll, Ben Berden - will be lurking around the top five, mountain biker Adam Craig may pull off a surprise result. He narrowly lost to a (tired) Powers last Sunday at the Cycle Smart International and while he may not have the raw power of some of the top riders, his bike handling skills are among the best in the world. If you can put the National Champion on the ropes in the corners, you know your stuff.
Katie Compton has decided she wants to win more, so she is back on this side of the pond for a few weeks of racing. She is the natural favorite, but may face stiff challenges from her prodige Kaitlin Antonneau and Luna teammates Georgia Gould and Katarina Nash. More foreign firepower is on its way with the re-appearance of Helen Wyman, the newly crowned Koppenbergcross and European Cyclocross Championship winner.
If you want to watch, you are in luck! Video will be streamed live on Velonews for the Elite Women and Men's races both Saturday and Sunday. Elite Women and Men race at 14:15 and 15:30 EST respectively (that is 20:15 and 21:30 CET for you Euros).
I will be on course this weekend, both racing and then spectating. Check in next week for pictures, course impressions, and more!