Why I hate cyclocross

Monday, 27 September 2010

Glamourous it isn’t.

Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it’s a good workout. But so much about cyclo-cross just isn’t right. Here’s why:

  • It’s only an hour long. I was doing longer races when I was 15. Give me a six hour classic.
  • The start of the cyclo-cross season reminds me that the road season is about to end. It’s like cross is an after-thought.
  • I love aesthetics in cycling, whether the beauty of landscapes or a bike reflecting the sunshine. 20 laps of a potato field in Belgium or a municipal park in a French town doesn’t cut it.
  • It’s a Belgian version of tractor-pulling: an excuse for people to gather near a muddy field, eat chips and drink beer from a plastic cup.
  • At the pro level the same guys always win. Mourey and Chainel win almost every race in France and the “World Cup” is dominated by the usual suspects, Sven Nys et al.
  • It relies on obstacles like wooden planks and the route is defined by plastic tape and fencing, quite artificial. Cycling normally borrows from nature or at least trails and roads.

But as much as I try and say the sport is good, it doesn’t inspire my day dreams and much like winter itself, I’ll endure it until the road season picks up again in the new year. In the meantime, the focus is on the Worlds and the end of season classics.

Footnote: there’s been a lively response to this already. For the avoidance of doubt, anything on two wheels is good. All I’m saying is that cross doesn’t make me dream. In response to my provocation, see the “Why I love Cyclocross” riposte from the Velocast.

Anonymous September 27, 2010 at 9:33 am

This is your first post to bum me out.
I love "'cross". It keeps me riding through part of the winter. It's spectator friendly so my non-cycling friends actually show up and can see something. And has even motivated a few to get into cycling. I too was racing long road races before I got into CX, but it doesn't diminish the thrill or challenge of it. Who cares what the WC is doing? I'm not racing against them. It's a short season by comparison, so there's little drama to be concerned with anyways. And I may be out of the loop, but I haven't heard of too many doping cases in CX either. And I find a lot more camaraderie at the start line than I have at any road race. It seems to weed out the elitists and Sunday rollers. It's also the fastest growing segment of racing, at least in the US, and that means more people on bikes. And that's a good thing in my book.

TheInnerRing September 27, 2010 at 10:13 am

Anonymous, sorry for any upset. Note I do say it's fun and that it's down to earth. I was just teasing.

I've added a footnote above and see the Velocast's handy riposte.

Anonymous September 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

I know what you mean, it's just a way to pass the time for the road season to begin. Sounds like fun though but I don't think I could find room for one more bike at home.

Duncan September 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm

If I lived somewhere warm and sunny all winter then I would hate cross. I don't and it is good fun but I get you on the way it doesn't have the magic of pro road cycling.

TheInnerRing September 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Duncan, you're right to point to the "pro" bit.

Many amateur road races can be boring, lapping a tiny village in France, even a parking lot in the states. Cross still has the amateur spirit, it can be fun but it just lacks the majesty of professional road racing with its history and a series of events that roll through San Remo, the High Alps, the Champs Elysées or an autumnal Lombardy.

Scott September 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm

In fairness to you Matt I actually agree with everything you said. As I say in my post, cyclocross as a sport just doesn't have the drama or elegance of road racing but as an activity it does look like a lot of fun.

Scott.

Steve September 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm

There's a longer race up in Yorkshire that adds a few natural obstacles. It was just on this weekend actually :)

TheInnerRing September 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Steve, that has to be the exception to the rule! That's more an off-road race rather than your normal cross in France, Belgium or Britain.

Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I hate it too. I'm sick of hearing about it.

Cyclo Cross Nut October 30, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I can see where you are coming from to a certain extent but I think if your readers had ridden some of the old school English cyclo crosses things might appear a little different. Run ups you can barely crawl up, river crossings, Le Mans style runnings starts, elbows out all the way round, no helmets of any safety note, brakes that didn't really stop you. Happy days indeed…until the road season started up again around Easter!

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