The 2013 UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships come to Louisville, Ky. this weekend.
The river town that gave the sports world the Kentucky Derby, Louisville Slugger, Muhammad Ali, the Louisville Colonels and Hunter S. Thompson (ain't the last three a tad ironic) is playing host to the first world Cyclo-Cross championship ever held outside of Europe.
Most American sports fans are familiar with bicycle motocross (BMX) either in its racing form or the X-games street riding format, mountain biking where highly specialized bikes are raced up and down mountain treks, and road races like the Tour de France.
Cyclo-cross is, more by coincidence than design, a hybrid of these three cycling events.
Like BMX, cyclo-cross races on short, spectator-friendly tracks.
Like mountain biking, the racers ride on a wide array of track surfaces.
Like road racing, the bikes have a 700-cm wheel size and drop bars.
For the cycling fan, it is the best of all possible worlds. You can actually watch The Race, not just see the racers fly by once or couple of times. You get to see the racers surmount obstacles that are not meant to be ridden on bikes, adding an X-games quality to the event.
And you get to see them do it all on the same style of bike that you demolished the first time you tried anything like this when you were a kid.
This is the world premiere, the first time Americans are being allowed to host a world championship that has never been contested outside the European continent. Until this year, cyclo-cross was more European than colonialism.
Thousands of raving cyclo-cross fans descend on Louisville as I write. So to prepare my countrymen for the onslaught, my crew and I threw together this primer for the American sports fan.
Look for our race coverage right through the men's elite final on Sunday.
Reporting with Jerry and Ralf Konty.