At Thursday's press conference USA Cycling coach Marc Gullickson sat quietly at one end of the podium as his star 'crossers took the media's questions.
I asked him his approach to coaching elite athletes on a national team when all of the 'crossers have their own coaches, trainers and racing teams in support. Did he approach it like Mike Krzyzewski and draw up the x's and o's or was his role more organization and support?
"I guess I have my own Dream Team," he said with a shy grin.
He spoke for a couple minutes about the support he and USA Cycling provide for the riders and said that basically his job is to make sure the athletes have what they need to succeed.
Current U.S. Cyclo-Cross national champion Jeremy Powers finally interrupted Gullickson to tell everyone that the national team coach did a lot more than offer logistical support.
He pointed out that Gullickson was a national champion in his own right and that all of the riders had a lot of respect for Gullickson's CX knowledge. He said that his national team coach is always offering small bits of advice on how to ride this or that line, when to get off the bike or how hard to go at various parts of the race.
Today we find out if the fruits of their labor pay off. The Juniors go off soon with American wunderkind Logan Owen favored to make the podium.
All of the Dream Team said the Louisville track is "an American course", very technical and not favoring riders who power down straightaways.
It's 21 degrees Fahrenheit at race time and the snow is tapering off. The course is covered in snow and the road sections are icy.
My predictions for the race: four podium finishes for the U.S. including one gold medal.
Check back for race reports by selecting the slideshow options.
The Dutch finished 1-2 in the Junior (under 18) World Cyclo-Cross Championship. Mathieu Van Der Poel rode away from the competition completing six laps of the technical course in 40:47. Van Der Poel's teammate Matijn Budding followed 57 seconds behind for the silver medal.
Van Der Poel was never seriously challenged as he put 5-15 seconds on the field every lap. It was a dominating performance as the Pays-Bas rider changed bikes on his only pit stop and rode the difficult course smooth as the ice on Beargrass Creek.
American Logan Owen was stuck behind bronze medalist Adam Toupalik of the Czech Republic. The bronze medal group jockeyed back and forth the entire race and every time Owen surged ahead into medal contention one of the Belgians in the group seemed to get tangled with the eight-time US Champion.
The women's race is getting ready to start with World Cup and US champ Katie Compton the pre-race favorite.
The temps are nearing the mid-20s and the sun is peaking through. The energy of the crowd seems to have melted most of the ice and snow.
The Elite Women's race started on wet surfaced thawed by the sun. Compton had the number one starting position but found herself pinched on the first turn and in seventh place.
French rider Lucie Chainel-LeFevre took the holeshot followed by 5-time world champion Marianne Vos. The female flying Dutchman passed LeFevre on the first lap and never looked back as she cruised to her sixth world title.
The crowd Compton found herself in turned out to be the difference maker in this race. By the time she found herself clear of the group she was more than a minute down at the midpoint of the race.
Once Compton was clear she put the hammer down to finish 20 seconds clear of the bronze medalist.
The race for the bronze produced a bizarre finish when the third-place rider Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) threw a chain as she torqued on to the finish stretch. Agonizingly close to the finish line Nash pushed her bike with one leg.
Why she didn't get off the bike and run is unknown at this time. Maybe she didn't know that LeFevre was right behind her, maybe she thought she had enough speed, but whatever the reason it cost her a bronze medal as LeFevre buried herself and passed the hapless Nash less than five meters from the finish line.
An overwhelmed Nash fell to her knees and stared up the heavens where the sun was shining through.
Divine intervention? LeFevre might say yes but I doubt Nash would agree.
Zach McDonald, starting in the 15th spot in the U23 race is now on the course. I'll be back soon with that update and then we have the Men's Elite final. The U.S. will be doing well to have two medals by the end of the day.
I watched the U23 race in HD with the other old men in the media center. The foreign media has been impressed with the size of the crowds here in Louisville and more are on the way. Captain America made an appearance at the start/finish line standing a few paces down from Thing One and Thing Two.
This is cyclo-cross after all.
The U23 race produced the first (minor) upset of the day and the third Dutch world champion in three races. Mike Teunissen had the fifth starting position but got into the lead group with Number One and Number Two, the Belgians Wietse Bosmans and Wout Van Aert.
The three tough mudders pulled away from the rest of the field staging their own private battle for the coveted rainbow jersey which is worn exclusively by the world champion for the entire year.
The riders swapped the lead several times with no one gaining a clear advantage.
On the final lap Teunissen posted the second fastest lap of the day to pull away from the Flemish and take the third Dutch gold medal.
The Men's Elite final is next, the crowd is swelling and it's snowing again. Should be a hoot.
Imagine what the reaction will be in the U.S. the first time the NFL announces that the Super Bowl will be played outside of the 50 states.
If your head didn't explode, now imagine that Brett Favre said it was good for the game, actively promoted it and came out of one of his retirements to win that Super Bowl.
If you can wrap your head around that, you have a fair idea of what happened in the Men's Elite world championship.
Sven Nys, age 37, and one of the greatest 'crossers of all time with over 250 victories and a 2005 World Championship was one of the first Europeans to embrace the UCI's decision to bring their world cyclo-cross world championship to the U.S. In interview after interview he extolled the virtues of American athletics, the growing popularity of cycling sports in the U.S. and his firm personal belief that cyclo-cross had to expand beyond European borders.
At the start of the Men's Elite race in Louisville the U.S. fans were decidedly pro-American. Thirty minutes before post time--and they actually played the horse race fanfare that Kentuckians know as "first call"--the crowd was in full-throated nationalist mode as "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A" sounded out again and again.
For the first couple of laps American Jonathan Page ran with the lead group of ten riders. You could track where the racers were on the course by the rolling noise from the crowd. But Page dropped in the standings on each lap and when he had a technical on the 5th lap and dropped a full minute the place got kind of quiet.
An upstart Frenchman, Francis Mourey, held the front of the race for a couple of laps until he blew up following wave after wave of Belgian attacks. At several points in the race all six riders from the Belgian national team ran first through sixth and it was looking like another Flemish domination of their most popular sport.
But the American sports fans were there to have a good time and when two riders broke away off the front of the race we found our man because there was Sven Nys riding behind his teammate Klass Vantornout with the young Dutchman Lars Van Der Haar a distant third. They traded places a few times and the crowd reacted every time Nys took the front.
On the final lap Nys motored past his teammate, bunnyhopped the barriers and pulled slightly ahead when Vantornout got his handlebars hung up on the fence at the end of the stone stair run-up.
The crowd went wild.
You would have thought a native son was leading the world championship but instead it was our adopted son, the cyclo-cross ambassador who gave Louisville the thumbs-up when the rest of the Euros were whining in their fruity wheat beer.
At the press conference afterward Nys thanked the American crowd for their support and implied that it was an important boost for him in a difficult race that saw him lose a tire but in the luckiest of places-- just a couple hundred feet from the pit area.
"Everything has to come together to win a race like this," he said, "and it is always nice to have the crowd's support."
Sven almost retired after a dismal showing in the 2011-2012 season but decided to give it one more go because he was feeling pretty good after doing a couple of early season races in the States. His tenacity paid off with his second world championship.
One thing you can count on in Louisville, we'll back a winner.
At the end of the day the weather turned foul again with snow showers and falling temperatures but as the fans cleared the course I could hear people talking about the exhilarating show to which they'd been treated. Muddy, wet and cold, everyone went home a happy camper.
The city of Louisville, heck the entire metro area, deserves big props for the job they did putting on this race in extremely difficult weather conditions. The army of volunteers was patient and polite as they demonstrated the best of Kentucky hospitality. It is clear that Louisville is ready, willing and able to host big time sporting events.
We need more cowbell.
Here are the American placings on the day:
- Juniors: Logan Owen, 4th (+1:23); Curtis White, 11th (+2:43); Maxx Chance, 25th (+4:58); David Lombardo, 27th (5:04); Stephen Bassett, 31st (-1 lap).
- Women's Elite: Katie Compton, 2nd (+1:34), Kaitlin Antonneau, 10th (+3:19); Amy Dombroski, 11th (+3:26); Jade Wilcoxson, 15th (+4:14); Georgia Gould, 17th (+4:24); Meredith Miller (DNF).
- Under-23: Zach McDonald, 11th (+1:42); Andrew Dillman, 25th (+3:40), Josh Johnson, 29th (+4:19); Skyler Trujillo, 37th (-1 lap); Tobin Ortenblad, 39th (-3 laps).
- Men's Elite: Timothy Johnson, 19th (+3:20); Jonathan Page, 22nd (+3:42); Jeremy Powers, 25th (+4:16); James Driscoll, 27th (+4:37); Daniel Summerhill, 35th (-2 laps); Ryan Trebon (DNF).
The lights are flickering in the media center and the subdued officials and journalists are ready to go home. Tomorrow look for a piece with Katie Compton's comments on women's racing and a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson on Monday.