After months of keeping it close to home I headed to Fayetteville, Arkansas to mingle with my road team mates at a team camp for Project Echelon Racing Team. However, that wasn’t the only thing I was looking forward to once touching down in the midwest town. Fayetville is rapidly gaining popularity for all things cycling mostly due to heavy injections of corporate money from the Walton family and their Walmart fortunes. Say what you want about Walmart but the amount of support and funding being funneled into the cycling community is pretty astounding. New trails are being cut weekly, bike path systems are on google maps, and the whole area is aware and respectful of their two wheel, pedal pushing, comrades.

Besides getting to know my skinny armed, watts/kg obsessed, aero conscious team mates I was keen to check out the 2022 World Championship Course.

That’s right folks, America is hosting this upcoming years World Championships in Fayetteville Arkansas. January 27-30, 2022. Brook Watts, mastermind behind WC cyclocross in the US, who has had his hands in Cross Vegas and the Trek Cup, has pulled the funding and resources together to make this work. He was extremely open to the idea when I reached out and asked if I could jump on course. Unfortunately, our paths didn’t cross while I was in town but he gave me enough intel to get me in the right direction. But I caught up with him after to pick his brain on how it all came together.

Q: A lot of people know you from your involvement with making cross Vegas and the trek wc a reality. Why did you choose Fayetteville for world champs?
After 11 years of CrossVegas including the first World Cup in the US, and 3 years of World Cup Waterloo it’s fun to have a new challenge. It developed when I was contacted by leaders of the northwest Arkansas region to discuss how to build a culture of cross to add to the already strong road and MTB scene.  I laid out a pathway to a World Championships with a World Cup as one of the stepping stones.  As you can see we’re well along on that path.
Q: Are you the mastermind behind the course?
Mastermind or madman, you decide now that you’ve ridden it. I was asked to bring my cross knowledge to the park design and construction. Also, we wanted to create an infrastructure that served both cross and MTB riders. So some of the cross course serves as the MTB short track course. And of course the start finish section works for both disciplines.  I started out with the goal to create something distinctly American with large amounts of European influence tossed in. Stealing from the best you might say.  You’ll see influences from Valkenburg, Ruddervoorde, Zolder and a dash of Hoogerheide. I think the first 50% is very modern style while the other 50% is largely traditional. You’ll see the use of natural elements like Arkansas field stone in the structures like the flyovers and Stonehenge that makes for a very nice look.
I loved the video, we been waiting until the construction is complete to create a drone tour video so I’ll have to do a sequel to yours. You missed a few turns in your hot lap, and you didn’t have the benefit of seeing the final course as it will be completed in May, so it may look completely different to viewers then.  At that time the original  vision should come together nicely.
Q: Will the World Cup and world champs course be the same, similar, or different?
Yes, that’s my goal. to use the same course.  We can adjust as needed but I want to see how the course works in October.  Here’s the key though, the course may be the same, but I think it’ll be raced completely differently when a rainbow jersey is up for grabs in January.
Q: I know you are running some other events up there this year. MTB UCI in April. What’s the long term plan of the infrastructure at centennial park?
The MTB races in April are part of the US Pro Cup and I’m not part of that organization since I’ve got a full plate.  But it’s going to be a nice opportunity to see how Centennial Park works as a venue and will help guide the final construction.  Long term plan? As you may have seen while you were there, there are miles of trails for riders of all abilities whether for daily riding or competitions.  Plus it’s a fabulous place to escape the city and find some peaceful greenspace.
Q: Do you have future plans for the park? I recommend ebike racing! haha
Part of my vision was to create course features, like the 38 Steps, that would be assets the rest of the year. Nothing is worse that a cool park that sits unused 364 days a year. Can you imagine a CrossFit group doing stair repeats on that?  Or on a snowy day seeing kids on cardboard boxes sliding down the backside of it?  It should serve the community in multiple ways.
EBikes are a good idea to get up that climb!  Seriously, the park is ready for international level MTB racing, like a World Cup or a weekend series. I know you’ll see lots of Centennial Park in the future.


So it was only right that I bring my Major Jake to road team camp and steal away to the cx course.

We were treated to some ideal weather and while there is still plenty of work to do up on the hill at Centennial Park the majority of the course and features are laid out and rideable.

So after referencing the course map above, Tyler Cloutier and I set out to see if we could link this thing together.

It was actually quite easy because you essentially link the features up. The cut trail through the woods has obvious tree line natural barriers and the features themselves are very self explanatory but super awesome. I am not sure I’d say the same thing post race about the 36 stair run up, but for now it’s awesome.

Obviously I rode it! Haha that bottom half is spaced perfectly. While it isn’t faster it is more fun. Though, once you get 2/3 of the way up the stair spacing becomes to shallow and you’d need to employ some trails skills that I don’t have.

I wont say too much on my thoughts about the course as I didn’t get it 100% right but Brook advised me that I got about “90%” and the gist.

As it stands now it is the most unique cx track I have ever ridden. It’s akin to an MTB flow track. Lot’s of berms and banked corners take a lot of the technicality of the race away but those things could change. The pedal sections are long and drawn out, not a punchy course by any means, which translates to lots of power and not a ton of bursting efforts. This will hold true especially if it gets muddy, which is very likely. We had quite a mud day in 2019 for the UCI race that was held at the same venue. With that said it could also be sunny and 50ºF. Regardless, it will be an awesome party and I am confident that Fayetteville will be out in full force to bring the noise and show the boys from across the pond that cyclocross is alive and well in America.