A taste of American cyclo-cross, part 1

CrossVegas: the show stopper

Cyclo-cross racing is thought to have started in Europe in the early 1900s, originating in France and quickly sweeping through Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Spain and Italy. Roughly 70 years after its infancy, the rugged autumn/winter sport crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the United States of America.

In its domestic beginnings it barely carved out a cult niche, but now America hosts more than 50 cyclo-cross events annually that are sanctioned under the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).

As the latest feather in America’s ’cross cap it is scheduled to host the UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships for the first time in Louisville, Kentucky in 2013. As part of the agreement for hosting Worlds, the Louisville venue will also be used for the Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships in 2012 and 2013.

BikeRadar reporter, Kirsten Frattini took a snapshot of some of the nation's most prominent 'cross events that scheduled to take place from September to December this year.

It is a mix of races that range from the oldest to the newest, the wackiest to the most epic and everything in between. We’ll look at one per day — of this 7 part series — for the following week. The first event is already upon us, CrossVegas.

CrossVegas: the show stopper

The UCI registered C1 level event, CrossVegas, finishes off the Interbike tradeshow’s opening day on 22 September in Las Vegas, Nevada. With thousands of bike-industry stake holders and media corralled in one location it is no surprise that the fourth annual ‘cross bash has become a wild success.

"I love Vegas, it's not that the course suits me but I love the venue," said Jeremy Powers (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld.com). "I love the crowds. One thing that makes me want to perform is the crowd, then you add the music, the lights and the fans.

"I love the atmosphere we all create together at the event with fans, friends, racers and media. That's what it's all about. Making something special that everyone looks back and says, ‘wow, that was awesome racing and we had a great time.'

Christian Huele (Rendementhypo cycling) leads Jermey Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) in 2009

CrossVegas is a stand alone event held on a Wednesday night, nestled between the first weekend of the North American Cyclo-cross Trophy (NACT) series at StarCrossed and Rad Racing Gran Prix held in Seattle, Washington and the start of the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross (USGP) series at the Planet Bike Cup held in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin - two of the nation's marquee series.

"Our race is at a wacky time of the year," said CrossVegas promoter Brook Watts. "I think part of what makes our race attractive is that we are able to get the unique spot on the calendar which suits the Europeans and others who can't come to the USA during the heart of the cyclo-cross schedule.

"The entire week gives riders an opportunity to get points, meet sponsors, get home, get over jet lag and dive into the heart of their own season overseas. The wacky and counterintuitive time of the season really works for us."

Jonathan Page (Planet Bike-Blue) leads Vervecken in 2009

Its prime mid-week slot on the UCI calendar and the fact it’s run in conjunction with Interbike are no doubt major factors that have led to the massive success of the event. Another undeniable factor is location, location, location; the bustling nightlife of Las Vegas brings a show stopping energy (and the show girls) to the typically unruly crowds that distinguish cyclo-cross from other cycling disciplines.

The women's 2009 start was fast and furious

"Why else does the event work? Las Vegas! Where else could you get away with something like what we do," Watts said. "We are over the top. This year we will use ring girls, a girl who comes out in a boxing ring wearing scantily clad clothing, she'll hold a lap counter. In a typical Vegas sort of way we will be over the top with a high heeled girl walking around a cyclo-cross course, where else but Vegas.

"First and foremost, it is one of the top destinations for foreigners. It has an appeal to the European riders that come here because they know they are satisfying a couple of itches, an American 'cross race and an iconic American city."

Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and reigning US National Champion Katie Compton (Planet Bike) won their respective events in 2009 and are slated to defend their titles this season.

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