Rough Stuff: The Madness of Cyclo-Cross

Cyclo-grot. Winter sport of choice for filth fans.

This weekend i headed out to the Odd Down circuit with Trotters (of Hamilton Wheelers fame) to spectate at the club’s nominated trophy event. Cyclo-cross is spectator-friendly; the race is usually on and around a short circuit, comprising of about 8 to 10 laps. All the hardy onlooker has to do is stake out a suitable location and wait for the filthy, mud-caked racers to come past. It was lovely and claggy under tyre; creating challenging conditions for the (fool)hardy bike riders. Trotters and I watched the enormous field charge away from the flag; there were a hundred on the start sheet, an almost incomprehensible figure that suggests the numbers opting to ride competitively is on an exponential upwards curve. Good luck gaining entry to Cat 4 circuits next season, newbies.

After a lightning quick blast along the road race circuit, the peloton squeezed through a tiny gate and headed into the wilds. Therein followed a classically circuitous meander through scrubland before hitting up the bmx circuit for a few endos and some spicy 360s. After that it was down to the woods for a bit of proper sketchorama offski, followed by a deadly climb up a slippery slope. Arch-Cross supremo, Charles Coleman, designed the course and threw in a couple of hurdles at the end. It was a right derailleur-breaker and there was a satisfying number of strange and terrifying mechanical problems, mostly caused by the dense layer of clag coating any exposed metallic parts.

Greener gets serious and takes his bike for a walk in the woods

It was savage and exciting to watch; a stream of riders mullering it into a state of exhaustion, coping with the conditions and the terrain with varying responses from the fatalistic to the exhilarated. I took it upon myself to cheer and heckle uproariously, getting into the spirit of the ‘cross and waving the cowbell with violent abandon. Somehow Trotters and I managed to find a prime spot in the middle of the course – and by ‘middle of the course’, i mean in the actual middle of the course: hiding behind a tree with racers passing on either side, ambushing them with nothing more than a camera, cowbell, wooden spoon and saucepan.

Helping Tom with some kind words

Dave Atkinson joined us halfway through, then a few other people who were at first diffident, before suddenly getting into character, cheering and jeering in equal measure. Those who managed to ride up the short but impossible climb received the biggest cheer.

Me, Trotters, Big Dave and Charles give it ‘more cowbell’

I made a short and slightly old-school audio slideshow. It would have been a lot easier to make a video, but i’m nothing if not anachronistic.

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