Above: a shot from the dusty US Grand Prix of Cyclocross, held annually in the fall, here in Louisville. The riders up front will be representing Team USA this weekend!
It’s the last week of January, and the UCI Cyclocross World Championships are upon us! What is all that gibberish, you say? Let’s break it down:
- UCI: Union de Cycliste Internationale / International Cycling Union (the group that oversees all world-class cycling events, from BMX to the Tour de France)
- Cyclocross: A “cross” between road and mountain bikes, gaining popularity rapidly, that engages riders on short courses over sand, grass, and mud. The racing season is typically early fall to late January
- World Championship: The race that decides who is the world champion for the 2013-2014 season; in other words, a big fucking deal!
Bike racing is great an all, but why it this suddenly so important? Because it’s being held right here in Louisville, Kentucky! In fact, less than 5 miles from my house, at our dedicated cyclocross facility, Eva Bandman Park. Preparations have been going on for, well, years (Louisville won the bid back in 2010), but in the last few months things have been moving fast. I spent the last two weekends helping set up the course, and in fact there are two distinct courses: the one at Eva Bandman for the World Champs, and a separate course just down the road for the Masters World Championships. “Masters” in cyclocross indicates a racer over 30, broken up into age groups of 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, etc. They’ll race on a different course, for slightly less time, but with a similar level of prestige.
The World Championships for “elite” men and women, are, however, of very, very high prestige. Consider the race in 2012 race held in the town of Koksijde, Belgium. An estimated 60,000 people turned out over the course of the two days, which is a lot even when you consider the fanaticism of Belgians and their love of all things cycling. Will we have 60k crazed fans? Unlikely. But the official Louisville 2013 twitter account claims upwards of 5,000 per day, plus the residual from Masters Worlds, and hey, who knows? There’s a giant buzz going around, and of course social media is leading the cause:
To be virtually part of the gigantic historic event that is 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships use the hashtag #Louisville2013
— louisville2013 (@louisville2013) January 29, 2013
Among the crazy hubbub of the week, including the Belgian team heading to a Cards game (snapped by local cycling star and blogger John Mandrola) and the giant signs at the airport and on cars, the craziest by far is the phenomenon known as “Louisville 2013 Foam Party.” Perhaps you know it better by its title, #Louisville2013FOAMPARTY” as Twitter has been going nuts with that hashtag for several days now. A foam party is, by all accounts, a giant rave with foam (yes, like the bath kind) shooting everywhere, causing general mayhem and wetness, but mix into this the grittier, no-fucks-given, party-all-night attitude of cyclocross, and you have the makings of a sensation.
Beyond that, the team behind this party was able to craft together a short, professional quality teaser video, interlacing shot of sexy girls dancing in foam with cyclocross racers. Does this appeal to the demographic? Hell yes it does. See for yourself:
Beyond that, The foam party people have been able to get @ mentions, rewteets, and shit loads of chatter from some high influencing twitter accounts. If you know much about Klout or the spread of twitter, this can mean good things for event promotion:
The social spread of this intrigues me, hence the vast amount of tweets. Read on…
— Cyclocross Magazine (@cyclocross) January 29, 2013
— Adam Myerson (@AdamMyerson) January 29, 2013
Prepping for Louisville. What vaccinations are recommended for @lv2013foamparty?
— bill gifford (@billgifford) January 29, 2013
— cindy (@acindysays) January 28, 2013
— spencerhaugh (@spencerhaugh) January 26, 2013
— Jimmy Flaherty (@flaherty4130) January 26, 2013
Didn't make the selection for the worlds team, but did make the selection for @LV2013FOAMPARTY
— Sup Cat (@supcat) January 26, 2013
An an interview, USA team member Jeremy Powers (think the cyclocross equivalent of, say, Peyton or Eli Manning) says he could potentially DJ at said foam party. This was all the group needed for a flyer:
In the age of social media, does one even need an official endorsement? How about just a “maybe” or “might?” The case is clear: get Jeremy Powers to mention your party, and you’re good to go. Having Cyclocross Magazine sponsor doesn’t hurt, either.
So rejoice, Louisville, for cyclocross is upon us in all its various forms. There’s a single speed “derby” race on Thursday night, Masters are racing all week, and parties abound. We’ve been told that the elite races Saturday & Sunday will be streamed live on the UCI YouTube Channel. I can vouch for the camera positions on course, as they’re in all the tight, slippery spots were racers will be struggling. Keep an eye on the Twitter and Facebook accounts for more info, or follow my personal twitter account (@sam_metal) as I update from the course over the weekend.
Update: here’s an interview with the co-creator of the foam party. Best quote: “it was the power of the internet.“
Update 2: The Louisville Sports Commission just released this short teaser video with a nice Euro accent.
Update 3: The landing page for the live stream is up now; here is the “channel” for the Men’s elite race. Apparently this is the first time the UCI will be streaming the race live. Let’s here it for American technology!