Last week's announcement that Belgium's Erwin Vervecken will be among the cyclists competing at the Planet Bike Cup boosts anticipation for the inaugural U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross (USGP) event. Scheduled for Sept. 26-27 at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, the Cup debuts as the first of four events in this fall's USGP race series. (Other locations: Louisville, Ky.; West Windsor, N.J.; Portland, Ore.) Vervecken, the three-time world cyclocross champion, brings undeniable marquee wattage to the elite field.
Long known as a summer destination for motorsports enthusiasts, Angell Park Speedway has gained traction in recent years for its challenging cyclocross features. The course for the Planet Bike Cup promises to be as spectator-friendly as it is demanding for cyclists, who will confront brief steep climbs and other variations in terrain.
Distinct from mountain bikes, cross bikes have drop handlebars and narrower (if knobby) tires than do ATBs. Races are held on a looped course measuring one to two miles per lap, on surfaces that vary from dirt, sand and grass to pavement and gravel. At designated places on the course, cyclists must dismount their bikes and race on foot while carrying their rides, then remount. Most races last between 40 and 60 minutes. By the end of the stated time, the rider who has completed the most laps wins.
Advance registration fees for the Planet Bike Cup range from $15 for juniors (ages 10-16) to $45 for elite men. No race-day registration will be available for elite men and women, nor for the U-23 category. A $10 surcharge is levied for race-day registration in other categories. (For a full breakdown of registration fees by category, see here.)
The weekend of cyclocross competition begins with a preview on Friday, Sept. 25, featuring an opportunity for cyclists to ride the course between 2 and 4 p.m. A free Clif Bar Kids Clinic follows at 4 p.m., with ages 10-16 invited to join Team Clif Bar for a primer on mounts, dismounts and other basics of cyclocross-specific bike handling. A registration party and number presentation are scheduled for 6 p.m. at Williamson Bicycle Works, 640 W. Washington.
Racing begins in earnest on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26-27, with amateur categories for men and women leading the way at 8 a.m. followed by masters, junior boys and girls and singlespeed divisions. The morning's amateur categories yield to an afternoon of elite racing, with pro women scheduled for 1:45 p.m. and pro men at 3 p.m.
Among those racing to displace Vervecken on the podium: three-time U.S. cyclocross champion and world silver medalist Jonathan Page, Swiss cyclocross champion Christian Heule and two-time U.S. cyclocross champion Tim Johnson.
Five-time U.S. cyclocross champion and world bronze medalist Katie Compton, three-time world mountain bike champion and Olympic gold medallist Alison Sydor of Canada, and world mountain bike champion and two-time Olympian Alison Dunlap lead an equally loaded field of pro women's cyclists.