Cyclo-Cross: Taking the Bike for a Walk

This morning was the second annual Odd Down clagfest. It’s a grotty, filthy, bike-destroying assault on the sensibilities. As such, it makes perfect sense to spectate, armed with a cowbell and a strange pink honky horn thing.

More cowbell! More pink honky horn thing!
More cowbell! More pink honky horn thing! (pic Africa Mason)

I love watching cyclo-cross. It’s the most bonkers of all the disciplines and you get to see a wider range of suffering and confusion than in most other events.

Man takes bike for stroll
Man takes bike for stroll

The course deviates through the woods hanging off the back of the Odd Down road circuit. Recent heavy rain had reduced the course to a quagmire. Even better. There was a huge field of riders, even more than last year, well over 100. Cyclo-cross is growing in popularity more quickly than any other branch of the support, in part because it’s accessible and there is a perverted camaraderie amongst the groterati, a collective insanity that can also be seen at hill climbs. The strongest, luckiest rider wins. 5 years ago you’d be lucky to lure one man and his dog out to a race day in Hengrove Park, which is stretching the definition of ‘park’ a little bit, unless by park you mean scrubland with a disused runway in the middle and some ruined industrial buildings, the playground of the NEETs. And the cyclocrossers. Next year i’m half-expecting to see a Fritewagon and bar selling Duvel, pumping out furious Belgian techno trance to an enraptured audience of low-country cyclofanatics – otherwise known as “all Belgians”.

wpid-img_20150104_1226202.jpg.jpeg
Could do with a quick clean

 

I staked out a spot in the woods and heckled like a madman. I rang the cowbell in Oli Beckingsale‘s face. A crowd formed and we cheered anyone who managed to ride their bike for more than 10 metres. The slope all but defeated them, making it the perfect spot to see crashes and some proper bike breakage.

Champion versions
Champion versions

The birch woodland echoed with the sound of derailleurs snapping. At the beginning the riders seemed to enjoy the challenge, revelling in the support and even smiling on occasion. By the end, all smiles had ceased, glassy eyes stared outwards, each orb a disconsolate and unthinking window into a mind shattered by the experience. A ghostly legion of pallid cyclists trudged onwards, destroyed in body and spirit by the accumulated trauma of 60 minutes in the woods. In years to come the locals will speak in hushed tones of the hauntings in the woods, how come January, if the weather is right, you can hear the sound of metal on mud, a hoarse tangling of twigs and chains, and the heavy, syncopated breathings of tortured souls condemned to circle through the undergrowth with bicycles wrapped across their heaving shoulders.

The Gidmeister gives it some beans
The Gidmeister gives it some beans

All of which made for a startling son-et-lumiere show. It was fantastic. Hats off to the amazing VC Walcot, a club committed to cycling and the community and a rich example to all clubs of what grass roots sport can look like.

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6 thoughts on “Cyclo-Cross: Taking the Bike for a Walk

  1. edwardtrotman January 4, 2015 / 9:01 pm

    Was a bit gutted to have missed watching it this year.

    • traumfahrrad January 4, 2015 / 9:05 pm

      It has gone up a level since last year. I even chose the rider for a prime. I felt like I’d made it.

  2. John mills January 5, 2015 / 7:45 am

    lovely little write up, makes me think i really should go see some of this cyclo cross shenanigans.
    groterati … love it 🙂

    • traumfahrrad January 5, 2015 / 9:35 pm

      National championships are in abergavenny this weekend!

  3. Niall Brown January 5, 2015 / 9:53 pm

    Thanks heaps for all the cheering. You whipped the crowd into a frenzy on that muddy, rooted climb. All that cheering made the pain slightly more bearable. My ears, however, are still ringing from the airhorn!

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