What can be said about the first day of the California Giant Berry Farms USA Cycling National Cyclo-cross Championships? The first thing to be said is that it was FAST! The course, which was changed only subtly in terms of its layout from 2005's event, supplied the means to an end - speed! With no snow, rain, ice, or water falling on the winding track, the moist earth was packed down nicely by the speeding riders to make for a largely, almost paved feeling dirt course.
Since the ground was moist however, the corners in some areas became what the riders like to refer to as greasy. The slick grass and mud combination was smooth, but the limited traction in some areas made control, acceleration and braking challenging for the careening two-wheelers.
The second thing to be said is that it is huge! This year's record breaking field makes this race second only to the Sea Otter Classic in terms of size. The crowds were larger and rider registration was at 1940, all contributing to a day of unbridled revelry in the sport of cyclocross.
Last year's race was marked by slips slides, crashes and general mayhem. This years race was typified by the sound of cow bells, cheers and the whirring-swish of riders powering through a beautiful, curving, plunging, climbing course. Last year's race was marked by mud, muck, and fighting for verticality; this year's race was marked by grace, speed and the agility of dancers, as cyclist committed to lines, looked hard into the turns and gracefully held their lines... even at such high velocities.
Roger Williams Park is a lake filled hilly expanse of grass fields and wooded areas. The course takes the riders through virtually every topography that a park could offer, although any entries into the lakes proper would have to be characterized as unplanned. The riders seared across the grassy infield, and looped a serpentine course through the area behind the vendor area, up the hills, across barricades and climbing stairs.