A cycling country for hard riders – where cyclocross is a major sport

I always knew Belgium was mad for cycle sport and that it is the main home of the winter variant of the sport – cyclocross. It’s a much older offroad cycle sport than mountain biking, carried out on adapted road bikes.

But I have been highly entertained as for the second week in a row I have bumped into cyclocross on live TV as a major event of the day and the Dutch speaking radio station I had on while cooking a meal led with the cross results as the lead sports headline. A nice bonus, I had been anticipating watching some of the Belgian road classics later in the spring but I had forgotten all about the cyclocross.

Today showed why this has always been an event for hard riders, historically mainly men. The kind of rider who likes to keep a clean bike and mechanical perfection would recoil in horror from the pouring rain, the ankle deep mud and the grinding sand. Perfectly suited to the image of Belgium as the country of riders on and off road who like conditions really horrible.

Today’s Superprestige series race at Diegem had the added twist of being run off under floodlights and street lamps only enhancing the sense of being closed in by the storm. And despite the conditions it appeared to attract a good crowd. All the pictures are on copyrighted sites so I won’t put one here, but try here for some good ones.

I loved cross when I was a kid, I was absolutely useless at it because I lacked the power and strength to be any good. But when it turned really horrible I was always worth a few extra places just because it put off some of the speed merchants. So in the middle of the wettest winters ever in northern Europe I am very happy to be tucked up indoors and to salute the kings of the mud. I guess before the season ends I had better get myself out there and actually watch one.