Let’s take a slight walk back in time to Louisville Kentucky during the 2013 cyclocross world championships. The whole of the cyclocross community descended upon Eva Bandman Park to witness the greatest competitors of the sport race under snowy skies while the Ohio River threatened to rise and consume the course forcing all four of the weekends categories to take place on Saturday. I will argue that this was one of, if not the greatest sporting event that has ever taken place on American soil. Sure, you can say that I am biased and that is certainly true when it comes to cyclocross but let me pose a small argument to back up my claims.
As cyclocross goes in America we weren’t there necessarily there to see anyone one person or country win, sure I think 95 percent of the crowd was hoping that Katie Compton would finally get the World Championship that has been eluding her, and to do it in her own country would make it all the more special but alas it was not to be. We were instead treated to a display of power and skill from Marianne Vos who is likely the greatest cyclist of our generation, she wins everything.
During Vos’ 45 plus minutes on course I never once heard a boo or malicious heckle directed her way while she bested America’s hope for a championship that day. That attitude would continue throughout the day, fans cheered for everyone from back to the front of the field, for Americans, Belgians, Japanese, Dutch whoever it didn’t matter we were there to see a race and to witness history in the sport.
When Sven Nys made his move in the men’s elite race amongst the snow flakes and mud, amongst the walls of cheers and noise that followed the racers through every corner of the course it was clear that indeed this was a great day.
What stuck with me that Saturday in Louisville was the overall mood, all day long everywhere I looked everyone was smiling, truly enjoying themselves, even the guy who fell face first into the sandpit from too many adult beverages was still having good time. As a crowd we didn’t go there divided, we weren’t set on one person winning and others losing, we were there for the appreciation and love of the of the sport. Often I wonder what the police reports from the local police looked like that day compared to the average American sporting weekend, beyond some public intoxication and likely a few parking tickets I don’t think there were any incidents that stood out. No fighting, no destruction of property, thousands filtered in and out of the park without issue.
This past weekend I travelled to the D.C. area to hangout with teammates and to shoot some photos for this post and I was reminded of why cyclocross is special beyond the actual act of racing it. Cyclocross is a diverse and ever growing community of bike racers, promoters, supporters, party people, weirdos, squares, black, white, red, green, men, women, gay, straight, whatever it doesn’t matter, we are all here for the same reason, we’re about ‘cross and what it gives us.
A lot of us have found a home in cyclocross, beyond the racing, it’s place where we can be ourselves openly and without prejudice. Where people from all walks of life can participate and enjoy. This week for a lot of people, it has been confusing and scary and it makes a lot of us disappointed and sad that at this point in history we have to be worried about civil liberties.
As a cyclocrosser I am proud to be part of an ever growing community of tolerant and brave people, and that a simple sport pursued on two wheels can create a place for everyone to feel welcome. As a community we should lead by example, and if Louisville showed us anything, we are not alone.