BOULDER, Colo. (VN) – One of three cities still vying for the 2014 and 2015 cyclocross national championships, Boulder rolled out the red carpet yesterday to USA Cycling’s National Events Director Kelli Lusk and Managing Director of National Events Micah Rice (formerly Jittery Joe’s Professional Cycling Team manager), who together manage USA Cycling’s 16 national championship events. A bluebird Colorado day greeted the contingent, but living in Colorado Springs, Rice and Lusk are used to those. What also impressed was the presentation by Boulder cycling advocates as well as city officials.
Mike Eubank, project manager of Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park, which includes the country’s only permanent cyclocross course purpose-built from its inception to adhere to UCI standards, led the local delegation. He was joined by Pete Webber – the reigning 40-45 World Cyclocross Champion, two-time National Cyclocross Champion, 20-year ’cross racer, Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member, and former membership and communications director of IMBA.
Webber led the tour of the Valmont Bike Park, pointing out many unique characteristics making it ideal to host such an event. Local top cyclocross stars, including Nicole Duke and Meredith Miller, were in attendance along with an array of leaders of Boulder’s large cycling community. Among the group’s promises is a virtually guaranteed enormous jump in both the number of spectators and the number of racers at nationals, were it to be held in Boulder, thanks to a very active local and regional cyclocross culture.
Boulder city government leaders and city parks managers and employees laid out for the USA Cycling contingent how the city’s infrastructure would support the event as well, including parking for up to 2,000 cars within 500 yards of the bike park. Kirk Kincannon, Boulder’s director of Parks and Recreation, clarified not only his department’s commitment to creating a foundation for the event but also its ability to handle any occurrence that could come up. Parks and Recreation’s main maintenance shed with enormous amounts of equipment of all sorts is located in Valmont Park, just across the street from the cyclocross course, and its grounds crews work on the park every day. And Boulder’s Channel 8 television station pointed out how its capacities would facilitate live streaming of the events.
Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park is truly an amazing facility, particularly for those into cyclocross, BMX, dirt jumping, or dirt riding with children, or who are mountain-bike singletrack newbies wanting to try riding high-speed berms, skinny logs and other stunts. The northern section of the park is built on a hillside and is separated by a streambed from its lower southern section, which used to be flat. After fully 10,000 dumptruckloads of dirt were deposited and sculpted throughout the park with a intricate network of hardened dirt trails throughout, that is no longer the case.
There is nobody better to extol the park’s virtues than Webber, its course designer and one of its early visionaries. Webber’s two books, Trail Solutions: Managing Mountain Biking: IMBA’s Guide to Providing Great Riding (2007) and IMBA’s Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack (2004), have sold 30,000 copies in 60 countries and are the world’s go-to mountain bike trail building guides.
Sustainable bicycle trail building is Webber’s middle name, and cyclocross is not only in his veins, it fills his every capillary. He designed the cyclocross course as well as all of the singletrack trails, pump tracks, and stunt features in the park, and his familiarity with it left none of the USA Cycling delegation’s questions unanswered during a walk around the cyclocross course.
Webber often uses the Boulder “Wednesday Worlds” morning cyclocross training race/ride, which regularly draws over 100 riders all fall and winter, to try out his course designs at Valmont, fully flagging out a course the day before. Two races with over 500 participants each (almost 800 in the second one) were held here in September and October, and the course is universally loved. Spectators and racers alike loved the UCI Boulder Cup cyclocross race held at Valmont Park this year on Halloween weekend, in part because of separate announcers at the finish and atop the 5280’ Run-Up staircase jam-packed with fans. The winners of the elite men’s and women’s Boulder Cup, Belgian Ben Berden and near-local Katie Compton (from Colorado Springs), both gushed about the quality of the Valmont course and its massive and enthusiastic crowds. There will be a number of other races at the venue to further iron out kinks in anticipation of holding national championship races here.
After racing cyclocross in Belgium, Webber has some Euro ideas not only for course design but also for infrastructure that are gradually being implemented at Valmont Park. These include getting riders away from their cars for pre-race preparation by utilizing the 30,000-square-foot metal barn at the park as an athlete’s base camp. “Americans dress and warm up at their cars, but in Belgium, riders sit on chairs in a heated building with a box for all of their gear,” says Webber.
The vast, one-story barn’s build-out plan includes areas for riders to have individual equipment boxes or lockers, a neutral trainer warm-up area, secure storage depot, vendor area, and indoor bike wash in a lowered concrete bay. Bike washes in the building and at the pit area adjacent the pond on the opposite end of the park would be supplied by high-pressure water splitting out into multiple hoses, rather than noisy, smelly power washers prone to breakdown and long waiting lines.
Boulder’s bike racing legacy is long, through much hard work and negotiation it recently landed a stage finish for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and its eagerness to have the 2014-2015 cyclocross nationals at Valmont Park is palpable. Asheville, NC and Austin, TX are competing with Boulder in the bid for the events.