Cyclocross first began as a way to allow riders to keep fit over the winter by mixing riding, offroad skills and running. But is now a sport in its own right. Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it’s a good workout. But for me so much about cyclo-cross just isn’t right. Here’s why:
- It’s only an hour long. 15 year olds do longer races. Give me a six hour classic.
- Cyclo-cross season reminds me that the road season has ended and that winter is coming. It’s like cross is there when road cycling is not.
- I love the 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 (actually, this sounds good). It even inspires country and western songs in Flemish like the clip above.
- At the pro level the same guys always win. The “World Cup” is dominated by the usual suspects, Sven Nys, Niels Albert, Zdenek Stybar and so on. In France Mourey and Chainel win almost everything.
- It relies on obstacles like wooden planks and the route is defined by plastic tape and fencing, quite artificial. Tyre choice is crucial and can select the winner. Cycling normally borrows from nature, whether mountain passes or off-road trails.
This is a reprise of a piece from last year but readership of this blog grows so there’s only a one-in-six chance you’ve read it already. Predictably there was a lively response to this back then and to repeat a point made last year, for the avoidance of any doubt, anything on two wheels is good and the use of “hate” above is meant to tease and no more. It’s good for skills and fitness, so give it a try.
In response to my provocation, The Velocast issued a good “Why I love cyclocross” piece but this has been taken down. If anyone wants to write a response in defence of the sport, I’ll happily link to it.
Edit: Joe Lindsey is the first to get his views across over at the always readable Boulder Report and second is the French Portail du Vélo. There have been plenty of passionate responses already via comments, email and twitter and thanks to you all. If the “hate” headline was provocative then I’m glad I’ve helped to spark pieces like Joe’s. We’re all into cycling and I don’t want to be divisive.
Teasing aside, there’s a serious point to finish with. Whilst cyclocross has become a sport in its own right, a genuine winter sport for many… it is not yet on the programme for the Winter Olympics. I think it should be but they say cross is too much of a Euro sport and without enough global coverage. But then again isn’t downhill skiing the preserve of a few countries with the combination of mountains, snow and facilities?