2012 ‘Cross nats shifted to January in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, will host U.S. cyclocross nationals in January 2012 and 2013. Is the later date a good idea?

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U.S. cyclocross nationals will shift from December to January in 2012, and will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, for 2012 and 2013, USA Cycling announced Friday.

The date change (which will mean there will be no ‘cross nationals held in the 2011 calendar year) has been long debated. Proponents say it puts U.S. riders on the same schedule as Europe, where most or all national championships are held in January. It also extends the U.S. season, potentially reducing the number of conflicting races.

Critics say the change puts elite U.S. riders aiming for the world championships at a disadvantage.

As for the venue, Madison had been vying with Traverse City, Michigan, for the two-year contract, taking over from Bend, Oregon, home for the 2009 and 2010 events.

Friday’s announcement means that the Madison area will host two of the nation’s premier ’cross events for the next two seasons, with the early-season Planet Bike Cup USGP of Cyclocross just down the road in Sun Prairie.

“I know that the rest of the country will quickly learn what Midwesterners know already: That the greater Madison area is an incredibly cycling-friendly city,” said Tom Schuler of race promoter Team Sports, Inc. Madison hosted the collegiate road national championships in 2009 and 2010.

Change is good, for some

USAC made the decision after reviewing results of a survey of 2009 nationals participants, national events director Kelli Lusk said. A ‘large majority’ of nationals racers supported the move, she said.

The date change effectively extends the U.S. season by about a month. With 52 days of UCI racing on the schedule between September and January, many weekends have seen conflicting events. “We’re packed. We’ve got almost 50 UCI races packed into just over two months,” said USAC managing director of events Micah Rice. “We just passed Belgium as the number one country in the world for UCI-inscripted cyclocross races. It’s blowing up… We’re trying to manage that calendar.”

The shift means that elite racers will have more clarity over whether UCI points earned at nationals will contribute immediately toward start positions on the international circuit. The early date of previous U.S. national championships has created confusion on that issue.

On the other hand, the move will require worlds-focused riders to either reduce their pre-World’s European racing or commute between Europe and home for nationals. In recent years many riders have headed to Europe soon after the U.S. nationals, for a block of racing between the Christmas week events and the world championships.

National champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) was supportive of the move. “I feel like we’re really jamming races into the early part of the season,” he told VeloNews recently. “Moving nationals can only help that.”

Johnson said that he would consider remaining Stateside for warm-weather training and racing leading into the masters and elite world championships in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

On the other hand, women’s national champion and worlds medalist Katie Compton (Planet Bike) opposes the change. “It makes the travel to and from Europe more difficult for me and the other elite racers going over for worlds,” she said.

The date change will challenge non-elite riders, too, Compton said.

“The weather becomes even more of an issue in January and that means most working people get to spend another month on the trainer preparing for nationals. They have to get through the holidays still training and negotiate weekend time with family to race for another four to five weekends. It sounds good on paper but I think many riders may find it more difficult than they think it will be, once the change occurs.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.