Like the myths of our forebears, ‘cross inspires many different reactions in the lands of Middle Europe. But just how and why does this strange backwater discipline work and why is it held in such esteem? September the 1st is the day that everything changes in our world – a cyclocross racer’s New Year’s Day.
“The world has changed, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air.
Much that once was, is lost. For few now live, who remember it.”
So it looks like a road bike, but it has knobbly tyres and mountain bike brakes. The races are cold, wet, muddy, utter chaos and you have to ride flat out for one hour with no drink. Even if you are uneducated enough to have a bottle on your bike you won’t have the chance to use it because instantly your gloves (and therefore your controls) will be covered in shit, or sand, or snow,… or sandy shitty snow.
It began with the forging of the great rigs.
Three were given to the Dutch, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings,
Seven to the Swiss, miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls,
And nine, nine top spec carbon fibre rigs were gifted to the race of Belgians, who above all else, desire power.
For within these rigs was bound the strength and will to govern each race.
But they were all of them deceived, for another rig was made,
In the land of Flanders, in the fires of mount doom Dark lord Sven Nys forged in secret a master rig to control all others. And into this rig he poured all of his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life.
One rig to rule them all.
Flanders is the heartland of ‘cross and Sven Nys, Niels Albert, Marianne Vos and Kevin Pauwels are some of the strongest riders in the world. Fans turn out every weekend in there droves in the pouring freezing rain to watch any race that the gods of ‘cross are involved in. It’s not uncommon for 100’000 fans to turn up to a prestige race and double that pack themselves around the 3km lap at a World Cup race. Sven Nys currently has more Twatbook followers than all but the highest paid roadies, far far eclipsing any mountain biker. In Belgium everything stands still for ‘cross, even football.
Having said that there has recently been somewhat of a renaissance in the world of ‘cross with the Netherlands and Switzerland producing many fine racers, as well as a couple of top notch riders from Italy and England, but to everyone’s surprise the USA has been getting in on the act and has done much to bring ‘cross to the public’s attention.
Keep it secret, keep it safe.
There has long been an air of superstition and respect for ‘cross racers, being a strange breed often preferring wetter, colder conditions whilst racing far into the red. It’s a race of polar opposites in comparison to road racing, where tactics are based around conserving energy. Even compared to mountain biking it shares little, focusing as it does on relentless attack until your opponent is worn down to the point of giving up. Cyclocross is all about riding as fast as you can for as long as you can, at which point you sprint.
Then there are the obstacles – planks, fallen trees, sharp edged boulders, pavé, sandpits and steps are all added to spice the whole thing up. So training on a turbo just isn’t enough, you have to be comfortable on your bike, comfortable enough in the red to be able to deal with those obstacles with style and finesse. When you see a seasoned ‘cross rider clear a set of planks in the flesh without slowing at all you’ll know what all the fuss is about.
When Winter first begins to bite, and stones crack in the frosty night,
When pools are black and trees are bare, ‘tis evil in the wild to fare.
So from September through to April, if you’re hard enough, you should come and mix it up at a ‘cross race near you…
Details of the London CycloCross League can be found here.
Details of the British Cycling National Trophy Series can be found here.
Glen runs THE.TRIBECA.SPORT.WØRKSHOP which is based at 28 London Road, Southborough, TN4 0QB – 01892 533 339 – firstname.lastname@example.org . The shop specialises in precision servicing, race prepping, 3D Bike Science bike fitting and high quality bikes and equipment. Drop in, give us a call, visit our Facebook page or browse our website for more details. He also runs the shop race team and club as well as racing ‘cross, road and cross-country nationally.
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