By Jason Sumner
The fate of the much-talked-about Louisville, Kentucky, cyclocross world championships bid will be decided Friday by a vote when the UCI management board comes together in Tabor, Czech Republic. And while UCI ’cross coordinator Peter Van Den Abelee has made it clear he supports bringing worlds across the Atlantic in 2013, he says nothing is assured.
“We’ve studied all the applications and then submitted our comments to the UCI management board,” Van Den Abelee told VeloNews at Sunday’s World Cup finals in Hoogerheide, Holland. “We all hope for the U.S. because it would be good for the development of the sport, but we won’t know until Friday.”
This year, Van Den Abelee made several visits to U.S. races, and said he was impressed with what he saw. “It was quite enthusiastic with good atmosphere,” he said. “There are a lot of riders, good fans, everything is there. Good courses, good course marking, security. Now we just cross our fingers.”
One of the primary hurdles to clear is the need for a test event. Typically new venues must first hold a World Cup to assure world championship readiness. But the prospect of bringing the World Cup to the U.S. is unlikely.
Unlike world championship events where athletes are usually supported by their national federations, World Cup events often pay start money to top riders to assure their presence. That extra cost, plus the complications and expense of international travel during the season mean an alternative solution must be found.
If Louisville is chosen, it will mark the first time ’cross worlds has been held outside Europe, and be the first major international cyclocross race held in the United States.
Van Den Abelee, who would not reveal which other locales were under consideration for 2013, explained that the UCI director of events would present each of the bids to the 16-member management board.
“Then he will say, ‘This is our conclusion. Now it is up to you to decide,’” Van Den Abelee said. “Normally we would need to do a World Cup first, but that would be difficult. So for right now we will just have to wait and see on Friday. Then everything will be clear.”
A portion of Van Den Abelee’s unwillingness to speculate is attributable to last year’s 2012 worlds announcement. In the lead-up, many expected the approval of a U.S. bid, but instead it went to Koksijde, Belgium, a traditional World Cup venue.
“Last year everybody thought it would be another one, but then it was announced as Belgium,” he said. “Nobody expected it, so you never know.”
If worlds does come to Kentucky, count Belgian great Sven Nys among those who will enthusiastically attend. Earlier this week, he told the Belgian news agency Sporza that he would postpone retirement for a year just for the chance to race in the U.S.