Northwest Arkansas once again proved itself a center for world-class cycling last weekend, hosting hundreds of athletes from dozens of countries in the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships that concluded Jan. 30 in Fayetteville.
It was only the second world championships in the U.S. and the first for Fayetteville, which also hosted a separate UCI World Cup event in late 2021.
Teams of cyclists, including Olympic medalists, journeyed from as far away as Israel and Costa Rica to race through Centennial Park’s woods and over its hills in multiple events Friday through Sunday.
Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.K. claimed most of the race titles. The U.S. team got as close as Andrew August’s fifth place finish in the junior men’s race Sunday, just 20 seconds behind the lead after 43 minutes of frenzied pedaling.
UCI is the world’s governing organization for international sports cycling. Cyclo-cross is essentially a hybrid of mountain biking and road racing, using relatively light and narrow bicycles to speed through multiple laps of a short, challenging track.
The championships were just the latest event drawn by years of local investment by the Walton Family Foundation, multiple cities and other partners into making Northwest Arkansas a premier destination for all varieties of cycling.
The paved Razorback Greenway runs more than 30 miles from Fayetteville to Bella Vista, for example, and more rugged courses such as Bentonville’s Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Park continue to attract locals and visitors alike.
PeopleForBikes, which rates communities in their cycling infrastructure and related measures, named Bentonville, Bella Vista and Fayetteville among the South’s 10 best biking communities in 2021.
Photo by Dan Holtmeyer