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I wanted to learn a little bit more about Cyclocross, so did a bit of research and came up with this fascinating history.
Cyclocross began in France in 1902, when a French soldier named Daniel Gousseau is credited with organizing the first French National Championship Cyclocross race. Numerous other National Championship Cyclocross races started popping up in other European countries shortly there after in places like Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, and Italy. However Cyclocross was around quite a bit before then in local races across France. It was originally called “Steeple Chasing” riders would simply ride toward a local landmark and first to arrive would win even if that meant climbing fences and crossing rivers.
In 1950 the UCI finally sanctioned the first Cyclocross World Championships, 48 years after the first French Champioships.
Today Cyclocross is arguably the fastest growing part of cycle sport mainly down to its accessibility to new comers unlike road racing where you need to keep up with a peleton or Time Trialling where you are often racing on a busy roads.
Cyclo-cross has parallels with mountain bike racing, cross-country cycling and criterium racing. Many of the best cyclo-cross riders cross train in other cycling disciplines; however, cyclo-cross has reached such size and popularity that some racers are specialists, and many prioritize cyclo-cross races over other disciplines.
Cyclo-cross bicycles are similar to road racing bicycles: lightweight, with somewhat narrow tires and drop handlebars. They are typically differentiated by their greater tire clearances, lower gearing, stronger frames, cantilever brakes or disc brakes and more upright riding position. They also share characteristics with mountain bicycles in that they use knobby tread tires for traction and, increasingly, disc brakes.
They have to be lightweight because competitors need to carry their bicycle to overcome barriers or slopes too steep to climb in the saddle. The sight of competitors struggling up a muddy slope with bicycles on their shoulders is the classic image of the sport, although unridable sections are generally a very small fraction of the race distance.
So this brings me back full circle to my Cyclocross career (well career is a very lose word here). I turned up in Perrranporth on a very wet Sunday morning to take part in the South West UK Cyclocross League. The racing was already on with the Under 8’s really giving it some, then it was the turn of the under 10’s and so forth.
My racing began at 1300 with over 100 starters bunched up together ready for the all out sprint to the start. We then turned left onto the grass, dry for now before hitting the spiral that goes around and around before spitting us out on the gravel section. Once we finish the gravel section we hit tarmac and then back to the start but this time with hurdles that’s right hurdles!
A fabulous but painful sixty minutes of racing with everything from gravel to mud to grass, just like when we were kids.
Oh how did I do? I was 21st in veteran category but to be fair no one really cares where they came. All in the name of mud!
Check out this great onboard film from 2016...