Friday, January 27, 2017

Wisconsin Cyclocross Hits The Big Time!

World Champion Wout Van Aert at the start of the 2016 Trek CXC Cup. (Anthony James photo)

What a moment for cyclocross in Wisconsin! Today the UCI announced its 2017-18 World Cup schedule and the biggest race in the Badger State is now one of the biggest races on the planet. Mark your calendars: Trek Headquarters, Waterloo, September 24.

Trek brought UCI cyclocross to Waterloo in 2013. And the Trek CXC Cup was always a top domestic race, but in 2016 it achieved international attention when most of the top Europeans used it as a tune-up for CrossVegas and Jingle Cross. For the 2017-18 season, CrossVegas drops down a notch and Trek takes its place in the World Cup. Here’s the full schedule:

09/16: Iowa City IA, USA (Jingle Cross)
09/24: Waterloo WI, USA (Trek CXC Cup)
10/22: Koksijde, Belgium
11/19: Bogense, Denmark
11/25: Zeven, Germany
12/17: Namur, Belgium
12/26: Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
01/21: Nommay, France
01/28: Hoogerheide, Netherlands

Amateur and non-World Cup professional races will accompany the main events on those weekends. And, as in years past, you can be sure the Wisconsin Cycling Association won’t schedule any of its own events on Trek’s weekend. Whether the WCA also will steer clear of Jingle Cross remains to be seen. For Wisconsin racers, Trek is now indisputably the bigger prize. A smaller WCA race outside of the Milwaukee-Madison corridor might take a chance on September 16-17.

CrossVegas will remain a prominent domestic race, but one wonders how many Europeans will take interest. It falls on Wednesday night, September 20, right between the two World Cup races. I predict most of the top racers will prefer to stay in the Midwest than to burden themselves with additional travel expenses. We might be witnessing CrossVegas in its death throes, as it always has coincided with the Interbike trade show, which is known to be looking for a new home. My recommendation: Chicago. It’s close enough to Iowa City and to Waterloo for O’Hare to serve as the international airport of choice, it has essentially unlimited hotel and expo space, and the impending development of the Big Marsh bike park could provide a race venue to replace CrossVegas. For Europeans accustomed to short distances between major races, a 10-day block that includes Jingle Cross, Big Marsh and Trek would be attractive. For American fans, it would be 10 days at the center of the cycling world and just maybe a precursor of another UCI World Championships week on American soil. Louisville KY had the honor of hosting the World Championship in 2013, the first (and still only) time the championships have been held outside of Europe.

Yes, someday we might look back on today’s announcement as a watershed occasion in American cyclocross. For now, let’s thank Trek for its commitment to the sport and in turn commit ourselves to support the race and the riders who come to Wisconsin to entertain us.

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