The 2016 Cyclocross National Championships
For cyclocross racers, the National Championships is our biggest and best party of the year. You travel to a new place and spend a week filled with amazing racing, lots of great people, and—of course—even a little debauchery. This is cyclocross after all.
This year’s event was hosted in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Biltmore Estate. This is a stunningly beautiful 8,000-acre property that has been family owned since 1895, and it features the largest privately owned house in the U.S. Seriously—it’s a 178,926 square foot mansion with absolutely incredible architecture. Riding through the Estate grounds reveals sprawling gardens, forested areas, creeks, waterfalls, a winery, intricate stone walls, and farm animals grazing through open fields. Everything about the Biltmore screams luxury, and it made for an amazing location to host the Cyclocross National Championships.
The venue itself was in the Estate’s Antler Hill Village, and the course weaved through the Village’s farm area, which meant our spectators included horses, miniature donkeys, and goats. But let’s talk about the course for a second. It was SO GOOD! The course designers really knocked it out of the park with this one. “Technical and challenging” were the words used most to describe the course, and it truly rewarded the best all around cross racer. It had a lot of climbing, steep run-ups, technical descents, and tricky off-camber sections. For most of the races it was dry and tacky, but some rain before the Elite races added a muddy, slippery element to an already interesting course.
Every single race was fun to watch. Part of that was because the course just lent itself to impressive riding (and even more impressive crashing), and part of it was because there was so much passion out there. The fields were huge with emotion and energy running high all week. The Men’s Single Speed event was the largest with over 150 registered racers—their starting grid looked like it was a quarter mile long. Bummer for the guys starting in the back row, but it was exciting to watch people work their way up through so many racers on the course. It’s just very cool to see people ride with such determination at Nationals. The Female Juniors 9-10 race ended in a sprint finish won by only half a bike length. The 2nd place finisher was so bummed that she punched her top tube as she crossed the line and had a single tear running down her cheek. How cool to see that kind of passion and heart in such a young racer. I bet she’s already thinking about how she’ll win next year.
It seemed like everybody was impressed by Nationals this year. Asheville, the Biltmore, and USA Cycling all did a great job pulling together a really well organized event. And the official after party Sunday night didn’t disappoint either. With three disco balls and a bubble machine on the dance floor, combined with a gaggle of bike racers ready to let loose, what could possibly go wrong?