Joan Hanscom talks about Louisville and Masters 'Cross Worlds

  
  


By Andrea W. Doray
 
Joan Hanscom is one of the brains behind the Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville.
Joan Hanscom is one of the brains behind the Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville.
When Joan Hanscom, event director and co-promoter of the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross (USGP), says that pulling off the 2012 UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships will be similar to directing other racing events—“only bigger”—you can almost believe her. “We still need signage, we still need course workers,” says Joan. “The nuts and bolts are basically the same.”
 
Five minutes into a conversation with Joan, however, it becomes clear that basically nothing is the same—and that Joan is up for the challenge!
 
The world is coming
 
The world is coming to Louisville, KY, and it’s coming in a big way. With her USGP partner Bruce Fina, Joan is co-producing the 2012 UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships taking place in less than three months at Louisville’s celebrated ’cross facility, Eva Bandman Park.
 
The event is scheduled for January 12 through 15, 2012. And that’s a warm-up run for the 2013 UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships and the 2013 UCI Elite Cyclo-cross World Championships also coming to Louisville the following year.
 
The 2012 appointment of Louisville as host city marks the first time any ’cross world championships will take place outside of Europe in the sixty-plus year history of the championships; the 2013 events include the first Elite Cycling World Championship of any discipline held on U.S. soil since the 2005 Track World Championships took place in Los Angeles.
 
Hosting the world
 
Asked when she began preparing for the 2012 event after the January 29, 2010, announcement, Joan replied: “The next day!” Actually, though, Joan says the group putting the bid together for the 2012 and 2013 events has already done much of the groundwork. As Event Director, Joan and her USGP partner Bruce Fina will produce the races also in partnership with the Louisville Sports Commission and USA Cycling.
 
The Louisville Sports Commission is a not-for-profit organization committed to attracting and hosting national and international events, such as the Cyclo-cross World Championships. “The Louisville Sports Commission ‘gets’ cycling,” says Joan. “Also, there is so much local support for these events—community support, political support, government support, sponsorships, and a strong racing and spectator community for cycling.”
 
Grabbing on to a “weird” sport
 
According to Joan, Louisville, the state of Kentucky, and most of the Ohio Valley embraced the “weird” sport of ’cross early on. (For “weird,” read also about “silly stupid fun” in the USA Cycling October Communiqué.) Even though Louisville itself was not originally a traditional ’cross market, “our cycling community grabbed on and we have a strong local base. The USGP has become a great bicycle race for ’cross riders,” says Joan.
 
“The World Championships are a big deal for Louisville as a host city,” adds Joan. “Of course, we have the tradition of the Kentucky Derby in April, but the Masters World Championships are an international event that will be right here right after the first of the year.”
 
Louisville has hosted a stop on the USGP since 2007, as well as multiple USA Cycling Masters National Road Championships. “We have a vibrant cycling community and tremendous local support,” says Joan.
 
The tipping point
 
What was the tipping point in 2010 for winning the bid and bringing both the 2012 and 2013 World Championships to the U.S., specifically Louisville? First, Joan says, the cycling community recognizes that ’cross is the fastest-growing discipline. “Plus, ’cross is an emerging market growing in a way that’s attractive—with a strong spectator base as well as participant base.” Joan also cites Louisville’s friendly climate, easy travel, and the Eastern Time Zone as important points for an international event, “with many of our competitors coming from Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain, France, and Italy.”
 
The venue at Eva Bandman Park “is right in the city of Louisville,” says Joan, “along the banks of the Ohio River. The facility has great features, and of course we are tweaking them all the time.” In addition to being the site for the 2012 and 2013 ’Cross World Championships, the course is also a regular venue for kids ’cross events and weekly training rides for ’cross competitors.
 
“The course is a work in progress,” says Joan of America’s first permanent, major-city cyclo-cross facility…and the site itself has not been without its challenges in the two since years since the awarding of the host city. “In 2010, we experienced a serious drought,” says Joan, “that dried up all the grass. Then spring 2011 brought severe and catastrophic flooding to many parts of the city, including our facility…people were fishing for catfish on our course in April! And now the grass looks awesome,” laughs Joan.
 
Taking challenges in stride
 
Joan is taking other preparation challenges in stride: “When we looked at the World Championships model for the U.S. sporting market, we knew it was viable and manageable.” Political and government support—including Louisville Metro Parks—has combined with local support from the Louisville Sports Commission, and the groundswell of enthusiasm from the community that’s embracing both the sport of ’cross and the arrival of the World Championships. “The Riverfront is booming, we have tremendous lodging capacity right downtown, and it’s super-easy to simply walk to the facility,” says Joan.
 
However, Joan and the event committee are contending with the differences in participation and eligibility for Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships under UCI rules. “For example, the race is open to everyone who meets the eligibility requirements with no ability category restrictions, such as for Category I or Category II riders,” says Joan. “Additionally, UCI competition rules state that no more than 80 people in an age group can ride for the championship jersey.”
 
Joan says the structure to arrive at the 80 participants for the finals is “complicated, but universally fair.” Qualifying heats are scheduled to begin on January 12 to narrow the fields in each age group to 80 riders for the finals on Saturday, January 14, and Sunday, January 15. The structure also includes repechage heats as “last-chance qualifiers for participants who simply had bad rides in the qualifying heats,” explains Joan. “For participants other than the 80 who are called up to the finals, the Championships will also include a consolation round for these participants to ride for a finish time.”
 
History in the making
 
Joan is, of course, looking ahead to the 2013 UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships and 2013 UCI Elite Cyclo-cross World Championships. What does she want to carry into 2013 that she might learn in 2012? “We definitely want to get the social element dialed in,” says Joan. “We want the world to have a good time and to come back in 2013.” Joan also expects continued course refinements and says it will be “fun to learn from the feedback about what people want when they come back.”
 
Joan is understandably jazzed about the fast-approaching 2012 Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships. “This will be history in making,” says Joan. “American ’cross riders have never had the chance to ride for the championship on their home soil—this is definitely a first for this sport.” In fact, in all the previous European races, no American ’cross participant has taken the championship. “We have USA riders and even local riders right here in Louisville who could win the championship jersey in front of their hometown crowd,” says Joan. “How cool would that be?”
 
For more information, visit www.usgpcyclocross.com, www.louisville2013.com, and www.usacycling.org. You can also follow Joan on Twitter: Joanhan and Louisville2013.


 
A freelance writer and free-time rider, Andrea Doray is based in Denver, CO. Doray has always puzzled about why people run when off their bikes, but is looking forward to the 2012 Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville…her father’s hometown. She may be reached at a.doray@andreadoray.com.


This Article Published October 31, 2011 For more information contact:
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