The 2015 Cyclocross National Championships in Austin

Even Disappointment is Bigger in Texas

There’s a lot to be said about the events that occurred on Sunday morning here in Austin, all of which have been stomped to death elsewhere, so what I’ll say is, for a race that was almost killed off, this was one of most beautiful and challenging courses I’ve ever witnessed. That’s coming from someone who has never traveled overseas, of course, but still.

Look, Austin is a growing city, trying to keep things “weird” and maintain its small town vibe, while it’s bursting at the seams with new construction and lots of new, self-important money. Events like SxSW, ACL and Fun Fun Fun Fest have been destroying the same parks over and over again, so when people see their beautiful Zilker and its hillsides being “destroyed”, they tend to overreact. Especially when they’re not briefed as to what “cyclocross” is.

I can say, It upsets me that this is what the ‘cross world will forever remember us by, not for the ripping course and supportive local scene. We all love cross and it kills us just as much as it kills you. Anyway, onto the story…

For the past week, I’ve been figuring out how to document this event and let me tell you, it was a lot easier before the organizers changed the course up. I had spots for each lap and ideas about how to tie in the women’s and men’s races, all of which was out the window when Sunday’s race was cancelled and the course underwent major work, eliminating many of the vignettes I had planned.

Shooting ‘cross isn’t easy, but it sure is challenging and as a photographer, I learn something new each time. Having raced on Wednesday, I felt like I had a good understanding of where to go and when. Throughout the entire day on Monday, unridable mud slowly transformed into 100% hero dirt. The lines were worn in and even the most technical section – a ribbon of off-camber mud-gutter with a 10″ drop off into one of the old course’s lines – was ridable. For most anyway.

At the end of the day, I experimented, caught some moments and pulled together one of my favorite galleries to date. I hope you enjoy… and remember, Austin loves ‘cross, let’s try to forgive and forget.

  • Sage Brown

    Nice set, looks like a hell of a race! I love the “unsung heroes”.

  • -Steven

    “Limestone Runup Study” series is soooo good.

  • Robert Lew

    absolutely fantastic photos!

  • Daniel Schaumann

    awesome coverage John, glad you could cut through the muck of all the people who weren’t involved with the situation, and showcase the event for what it was, a rippin race!

  • Tucker

    What a race!!! Thanks for the photo John.

    • Jamie McKeon

      prolly is not prollydoppelganger

  • Glenn Charles

    John — An absolutely gorgeous gallery. Well done!!

  • Josh Caffrey

    Great photos as always John.

  • Spencer Olinek

    Nailed it. Thanks for these.

  • Ahab

    Nice job all around, from the coverage to the bootleg race you threw together.

  • pizza dude

    Such a great photoset. I’d love to see a photography post (or a video or a workshop!) about how you go about shooting and processing you images. I’m constantly blown away by your work and learning from you would be rad.

  • Hollis Duncan

    Did Lance come out to watch any races? I just saw him in the CK set. What’s the story on the “disappointment” tees were those concept > print in < 24 hours?!

  • caliente

    #71, so good. I have never seen a pic of him where he looks like he’s trying so hard! Nice photojournalism!

  • Maxwell Merkle

    What makes shooting CX, in particular, difficult?

    • John Watson

      It’s tough to find different / unique angles and perspectives.

      • Maxwell Merkle

        Oh. Right. My first thought was “then why does everybody and their dog have several hundred pictures per race?” Then I realized they are boring as hell to look at (in light of your comment).

  • Hubert d’Autremont

    Seriously a beautiful set. Definitely one of your best! Looked like a rad course, and hard as hell.
    Keep it up.

  • Allen K

    Did you notice that Tristan’s chain fell off in that pic?! I feel him…mine came off at the first bottleneck around the first Heritage tree. Dead last by the time I got it back on!

    • John Watson

      Yeah, Tristan needs to go 1x with a Wolf Tooth or SRAM. I’ve never seen him in the big ring on a technical course like this…

  • Sean Curran

    Great photos John, love the color ones especially.

    Well said on the disappointments. Feel for you guys having that happen in your city, but, we all know the true heart of CX does not live in nationals.

  • jn

    wena culiao

  • Matt

    Rad gallery. But you know what I think might make it more rad? If you could see the whole image, and the caption, without having to scroll up and down, just some constructive criticism and it might even just be my display but I think that would be cool

    • Morgan Taylor

      What setup are you viewing on?

    • John Watson

      Weird. It’s a dynamic gallery, so the gallery rescales with your screen res. What’s your setup? Also, make sure you’re not zoomed into the website.
      i.e. hit command 0

      • nspace

        There is not much you can do, it is because the thumbnail column is fixed and the center column is fluid. On a high res screen, especially 16:9, when the browser window is scaled wide (beyond 1600px-ish) and your browser window isn’t taking up the full height of your screen then there is chance of stuff getting cut off due to the aspect ratio of the images. It is handled as well as it could be (short of moving captions). Solution, make your browser window taller. On a related note: I find on longer galleries, having to scroll the entire page down to see all the thumbnails, and then back up to see the images you selected more of a usability speedbump, but thats nitpicking.

      • Johannes

        Same here, I´ve to resize (command – ) manually in order to see all.
        FF 34.0 (now 35.0) on a 1600×900 Screen.

      • Tucker

        Most laptops or PCs with an Nvidia card are capable of “downsampling” or forcing a higher resolution than a monitor can natively display. I often use 2880×1620 or 3200×1800 to make onscreen text appear smoother, because downsampling eliminates “staircasing”.
        So if you are running 1600×900 try 1920×1080.
        Here’s a link on how to do it:

    • John Watson

      This is what we programed the gallery to look like on any resolution, down to something small like 1000

      • Aaron

        It happens on my macbook too, if i’m in full screen on safari. But if I make the window a little skinnier, (first world) problem solved.

        • Sean Curran

          Same on my macbook, always bothered me a bit. If I have chrome full width I have to scroll.

      • Matt

        my monitor goes to 1366×768 and I need to zoom my browser (chrome) out to %67 to see the full image as well as the caption. Not a big deal though

  • kt

    Love your use of a second flash!

    • John Watson

      that’s just one flash.

  • Matt

    #77 is too good

  • boomforeal

    GREAT set

  • mfmg

    Putting the “RAD” in RADAVIST. Nicely done.

  • Raphaël Gariépy

    Any chance on pictures of the parc empty? The lines and terrain would be interesting!!!!!!

    Thanks for the awesome pictures and more intimate portrait style.

  • Brett O. Walker

    Amazing set! Well done!

  • Michele S.

    Great pics! BTW, #34 is not elite women. It’s Turner Ramsay, the winner of the women’s 15-16 race.

  • dypeterc

    I hate to beat a dead horse…

    I watched Sunday’s… errrr Monday’s race on BTB and wasn’t impressed. Maybe I’m jaded… Sure, they did the best they could with what they had. It was good but nowhere near world-class. It was another typical American crit-style course. Did anyone watch the Belgian nat champs in Erpe-Mere? THAT was a ‘cross course. It’s on a whole other level.

    • John Watson

      Granted, they cut out a lot of good stuff after the whole Heritage Tree thing, but sure. Cross racing in Belgium is a lot older than it is in the USA. It’s like comparing baseball games in the USA to baseball in Japan.

      It also wasn’t “crit style” at all. Way more technical features than a grass crit. But whatever, you watched it on a screen and a lot of people saw it IRL / raced it / were impressed by it. No need to beat a dead horse.

  • Ian Bennett

    John – what did you use to shoot this (camera/lens)?? Really like the results – well done sir!

    • John Watson

      Canon 5D and 24-70