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great 'cross origins from lonefrontranger(4 posts)

great 'cross origins from lonefrontrangerGravity Well
Oct 11, 2002 7:08 PM
I have been lurking for about a month, sponging up the info you all drop. I have not really posted, because my typing skills are slow, and the heroes always have great responses. I started to read the posts at mtbr, they just want to roast people and their opinions. I am always impressed with this forums good nature and good responses.

I raced last year on a Cannondale XR800 (rigid to be nice) and had the most fun and hardest workout ever. I ordered a Kelly Knobby Cross to replace the C-dale, hopefully will be able to ride it on the road, also.

My real reason to post, is not to write about my little world, but to reprint a post I came across in the archives. It is a great narrative explaining the history of cross. Maybe it should be reprinted every year about this time for newbies, like me.


>Posted by: lonefrontranger
Nov-15-01, 11:45 AM

>"Beer and tradition"

>Cyclocross, like any Euro-derived sport is steeped in tradition. You've heard of (and even done) urban assault riding? Cyclocross began as "rural assault".

>The sport started out back in the middle of last century when a bunch of Belgian roadies decided that winter road training in Belgian weather sucked (big suprise). To make it more entertaining, or at least somewhat less miserable, the guys developed simple point-to-point Sunday rides that involved being the first one to a fixed landmark (literally "steeple-chasing" in the original sense of the term). In the best tradition of bike hooligans through the ages, the first one to the landmark got free beer from his mates at the adjacent pub (not much has changed here).

>Getting there first involved shortcuts through muddy beet fields and along farm tracks, climbing over "stiles" (stairs cut in hedgerows between fields), and running up the steep levees along barge canals. These dismount sections were actively sought out to add challenge and also to keep the rider's feet warm. Hence the tradition of adding hurdles and run-ups to a modern course. I'm sure traversing through sheep manure and getting chased by angry cattle were a part of the fun as well; somehow these factors were not carried over into modern times :-)

>Sometime in the 60's, the word got out, and the sport became "organized", if that's an approprate term for a sport which requires adult humans to run around in the mud carrying perfectly functional bicycles on their backs.

>The road bikes back in those days were heavy bomber things designed for muddy, cobbled roads and traversing the steep rutted dirt passes of the grand tours - roads which would be loosely classified as "jeep roads" by MTBers today. In other words, road bikes are also the original offroad bikes. The design of a 'cross bike is essentially a hybrid: 30-38 mm wide tires at fairly low pressure, small knobs to bite into slippery stuff, canti brakes to provide stopping power in wet, sketchy situations, a range of moderate gears, and a beefier frame with slightly more "relaxed" geometry for predictable handling.

>Modern 'cross courses in the U.S. have little to do with rutted farm roads and muddy fields in Belgium. Our courses tend to be short loops, with several dismount sections and one or two "run-ups" on fairly firm park turf. Federation and UCI rules state the course cannot be narrower than 2 meters at any point (i.e. no singletrack), and "not more than 50% paved". In essence, these are off-road criterium courses with dismounts. The 700c wheels and skinny tires on a 'cross bike, coupled with its hybrid gearing (smaller than road, bigger than MTB) and rigid frame offers a significant mechanical advantage over your typical hardtail.

>I've tried both, and it's much easier racing 'cross on a 'cross bike. In fact, it's also much easier racing non-technical Midwestern-style MTB courses on a 'cross bike, which I've also done. Also fun to see Sport guy's face when he gets passed by a girl on a "road bike" doi
Oct 12, 2002 4:04 AM
LFR really is a font of information!

Just a couple of things to add... I have read [I don't have the citations handy] that one of the principal stimuli for cyclocross was the second World War. With the Normandy invasion in 1944, Belgian and Dutch roads were pretty much impassible. Even if the roads weren't utterly destroyed by tanks, artillery and bombing, the presence of the front line running through the Ardennes forest, allied and Nazi checkpoints and the not inconsiderable threat of mines made training rides of any length an adventure.

So... Dutch and Belgian roadies looking to keep fit for what they hoped would be a great 1945 season, adapted their bikes to ride on the mud tracks and farmers fields that LFR wrote about. The first organized races would bhave been in the winter of 1944-45.

The first organized Cyclo-cross Worlds was held in Paris in 1950. Jean Robic won.
One last thing...Velocipedio
Oct 12, 2002 6:24 AM
LFR... do you know anything about this?

I've read some refrences to a local race in Paris in 1924 called le Criterium International de cross cyclo-pédestre. It was, I understand, a kind of proto-cyclo-cross race. Can you tell me anything?
One last thing...atpjunkie
Oct 14, 2002 9:27 AM
ahhh history. Kinda why luddites as myself frown on the bunnyhop, very cool to do but breaks with the tradition of the sport. I'm still going to try to perfect the art (though at my size, it runs havoc on my wheels) because it's faster and yes it looks cool but I just feel like I'm breaking with a great tradition. I live in So Cal we don't get cold feet but somehow it just raises the hair on my neck.