There is a lot of talk of American-style racing, with its own culture and course features. That begs the question, should events in the United States try to replicate the European model? The success of cross is linked to the inclusiveness nature of the events, all categories racing on the same course, fans cheering all riders, heckling – all done with its own flair in different regions all over the country. On the other hand, successful racers are product of their environment, and if the top American racers want to be at the highest level in World Cup which are all held in Europe, they have to be skilled and experienced on the Euro-type courses and conditions.
Which is why the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships - held for the first time outside of Europe - will be quite interesting. “I know that it's a focus of a lot of riders, whether it be Katie (Compton) or Jeremy, (Powers) or whoever, they're very focused on Louisville and that is for a very good reason because Louisville is going to be a real American course. It's built similar to other large American events.” added Rice who compared it to last year's Worlds course at Koksijde, with all the sand that demands completely different skills that only riders who had raced and trained for years on the same course. That was evident in 2012 when the Belgian claimed the top seven spots in the Elite Men's race.
“The fact that we'll have the world championships will benefit America because our riders are used to these types of race courses and not necessarily used to the types of courses that are in Europe.”
“Should we try to do what Europe is doing?” Rice continued. “On some side of the things, I think we are trying to do some of our courses similar to what an international race will be just so our elite racers are better at international competition and I think that is important from an international competition side of things. But a lot of the sponsors, a lot of the things going on in the United States are not just about the elite racers.”
That brings us back to the participatory nature of cross events in the United States. The sport is both growing from the top with the elite riders and grassroots.
“It's good to look up to the elite racers and kind of have them the role model type thing.” Rice continued. He went on by illustrating an example using a masters racer. “But there's no way around the fact that 40-year old woman is excited about cyclo-cross and it's not necessarily because she wants to see if Jeremy Powers is going to podium at the World Championships. She's excited about it because it's fun, it gives her good exercise, it's something that she can look forwards to and have a good time with her friends and family, and that's the grassroots side of things. I guess arguments can be made for both, I think the elite riders need to see the European-style courses but I don't necessarily think American racing needs to mimic European racing at all times.”
All signs point to cyclo-cross continuing to flourish in the United States. We'll know in one week if the Americans can also flourish at the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, with homecourt advantage at Louisville 2013.
Preview cyclocross World Championships 2013