For an unabashed (and unashamed) Euro-fan headed to Louisville, the uncertainty heading up to the race was almost overwhelming. First the rumblings about sponsorship troubles, then rumors of some pros planning to skip because of travel and cost considerations. Would the course be worthy of a World Championship? What would the weather hold in store? Would the crowds be respectful and knowledgeable? Heck, would the crowds even show? This was the first time outside of Europe, and it seemed like a 50/50 split on whether or not it would be mediocre experience at best.
All of those fears washed away in the wall of sound that traveled with the racers as the elites thundered down the course. The previous races had been great, as were the fans lining the course, but nothing could have prepared me for the main event. These were the PROs. The hard men of Flanders and the North, and they were crushing it right here on US soil, right here in front of me, as I screamed my lungs out. It seemed to me like the fans cheered just as loud for the racers in the back as the racers on the front, and it’s great to see that the racers felt the same way. The US fans might have been there to support Page, Powers, and Trebon, but the enthusiasm for our Belgian, Dutch, and (yes) New Zealand all-stars was over the top.
It’s said that in Europe, cyclocross is something you watch, while in the US it’s something you do, and even as fans, the Americans need to participate. Despite the dire warning of the UCI, handups were happening and it was awesome to see some of the riders suffering at the back crack a smile at a dollar bill dangling in front of them or grab for a beer as they shot by. There was no doubt that serious racing happening at the front, but if a rider can have a bit of fun on their way to being lapped, I’m happy America could do that for them.
As a fan of the sport, it couldn’t have been a better day: Louisville delivered a technically and physically challenging course, perfect (and I mean perfect) course and weather conditions, a thrilling tactical race that came down to the wire, and an emotional win for a true champion.
No matter what led up to the weekend, I hope that Louisville 2013 will be remembered for three things:
- A classy and gutsy ride from Lars van der Haar to take the bronze medal, and the huge smile on his face as he crossed the line.
- The amazing fans who were knowledgeable, respectful, and made up for their lack of European size with American enthusiasm.
- A brilliant win by Sven Nys, cementing his legacy and doing it on American mud.
This fan thanks the city of Louisville and its extremely hard working public service people for keeping the venue from flooding, the people of Louisville for inviting us into their community even though I think sometimes they didn’t quite understand what they were getting themselves in to, the promoters of Louisville 2013 and the army of volunteers and supporters, the fans, and most of all the racers, for delivering such an exceptional experience.
David Lowe-Rogstad is the president and chief evangelism officer of Substance), a digital brand agency based in Portland, Oregon. A lifelong rider and racer, he spends his time now at the back of the pack in the Master’s, but still wouldn’t trade it for anything. He also said to me before LooVille, “You raced with the old men? I just came here to watch the pros.”
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