Sorry today’s blog post is up so late in the day, but it took me all night and this morning to warm up and edit photos from the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships in Verona. The course is all cleaned up by now, my fingers are once again warm. A few paragraphs below, you can see small slideshow of the images I uploaded to to the Bike Fed’s Flickr page. For a larger view of those images, look at them on the Flickr page itself.
I think all the athletes and anyone who made it to watch the riders battle it out in ice, mud, rain, fog, snow, and sub-freezing temperatures will agree that “epic” is no overstatement. Cold and snow are to be expected in January in Wisconsin, but unseasonable temperatures in the 40s, combined with rain turned the course at Badger Prairie Park into a river of mud. When temperatures were predicted to drop into the single digits Saturday night, race organizers did their best to make the course rideable for Sunday by driving a Bobcat backwards around the course, dragging the bucket to smooth the ruts.
Sunday morning the wind chill brought the temperatures down into the single digits, but when I got to the course around 8am, the first racer I saw out practice riding told me the course was “awesome.” He said the Bobcat Zamboni and other riders had created a fast, rideable line through the river of frozen ruts. That certainly proved to be the case as racers were able to turn in 7 minute laps on the 1.8 mile course. The times on the muddy days were double and triple that.
Tom Held provided a well-rounded report on the racing Sunday as well as insight into how our top State riders fared in his blog The Active Pursuit. For complete race results and more photos, check out the USA Cycling Championship page here.
While this is racing and results certainly matter to the teams, sponsors and individual athletes, I look at the 5 days of racing with a different perspective. I see it as one more example of what makes Wisconsin such a great place to ride a bike. Not only do we have great, national caliber racing, but even on the coldest days, the warm and welcoming attitude of the athletes, organizers, sponsors and spectators are part of what makes riding a bike so special in Wisconsin.
It is because of that friendly, welcoming community that people train so hard and pay to suffer so much during a bike race. It is because cycling brings so much to local communities that organizers, sponsors and armies of community volunteers work 16 hour days to put on big cycling events. When the sweat and mud is wiped away, the lactic acid has been flushed from burning muscles, and every stake has been pulled from the course, we all smile and start planning when we will see each other again at the next race or charity ride. It is all part of what makes Wisconsin such a great place to live and ride.
So thanks to all the thousands of racers spectators from across the country who came to Verona last Wednesday through Sunday. Of course none of it would have happened without the support of USA Cycling, Team Sports, the Madison Sports Council, and the sponsors. Finally, a very special and heartfelt thank you to the citizens of Verona who welcomed a bunch of cross crazy people into their community (and specifically their public library) for two years in a row! Since the national championships move to Boulder in 2014, you can plan on checking out books again next December.
As I mentioned above, you can find more photos on our Flickr page.