Cyclocross seems to be mushrooming in popularity in
North America faster than their hero Jeremy Powers canbunny hop a set of hurdles. By the same token Belgium’sobsessive objectification of cyclocross makes it a mecca for UK fans.
Sitting in our little British bubble buffered by the sea andoceans it seems a race has started between two nations.
Rapha’s Supercross series returned in 2012 using a blueprintfrom US based races and included cowbells, foam and plenty of audienceparticipation while Muddy Hell Halloween Cross from event organisers,Rollapaluza has been drawing the crowds for several years enticing cyclistsfrom all over London to share in a ghoulish pint and cheer on some guy who’sactively been encouraged to ride dressed as Mr Blobby.
In local races organisers are ready to imitate what we thinkis happening across the pond, rather than build the legitimacy of the race as asporting event. Long standing National Trophy races, such as Peel Park,Bradford have tried but can’t quite crack the banks for sponsors to host around of the World Cup and whilst it is a fantastic race, (if you get thechance you should go to spectate). It doesn’t look it is going to truly matchour continental friends.
For the first time in its sixty year history the WorldChampionships are venturing outside of its European home land and going to
Louisville in Kentucky in America.In a few short years who would have imagined the US to have risen through the ranksto of cyclocross to pull the big race.
British fans appear to be stuck between two cultures goinghead to head. One with traditionalist races where the language barrier is partof the draw the other has no history but plenty of willing and we canunderstand everything that is going on.
Who should we look to, who is better and what is the betterto waste our time obsessing over.
Speaking with Eurpoean Champion, Helen Wyman before she flewto
America she made mentionof the progression Britain and Belgiumneeds to take equal US counterparts. “The crowds support everyone, and thewomen are prioritised rather than just being a support race. There is equalprize money, great organisers and information about races is easy to find.Europe is behind, in the USthey show the women’s race on TV or stream it online and the publicity isdifferent.”
Wyman admits that element of the sport are changing in
Europe but it’s slow. She explained that the US and UK have asimilar culture. The USloves sports with audience participation. They love a show, and they loveheros. “Cyclocross is new, they don’t really have a history and they don’t haverace organisers who were racing in the 1950s. So they have created their ownvalues and ideas. Where everyone is equal and everyone deserves to berespected.”
Americahas the upper hand, not so. Helen is very clear about what America and Europecan do for a rider “if you want a career and a business stick to American. Ifyou want to be World number one, you need points and you need to stay in Europe.”
Rapha’s Supercross organiser and cultural cyclo crosscommentator Ian Cleverly “I tuned in to live coverage of the
US championships, intrigued to see if the sceneis as big in the States as it appears from the UK. The jury is still out on thatone. The park in Wisconsinwas visually unexciting, the course a dull, straight-line thrash. Outside thetop four or five riders, the drop-off in quality is steep. The threecommentators were unintentionally hilarious and less intelligible than thestandard chap I tune into on Sporza for Belgian races, and he talks Flemish…”
What does that mean for
America and opening up theirversion of the sport to the world? The experienced pro Wyman rightly points out“There won’t be the mental 20,000 spectators spitting frites and beer, but thepeople that will be World Championships will be enthusiastic.”
Belgiumbased ‘cross community travelling lock, stock and barrel to the States is aninteresting prospect. “Will the fans travel?” ask Cleverly “Is this one steptoo far in this globalisation obsession of the UCI’s? Can a compact crowd ofcolourful, cowbell-wielding whoopers create as much atmosphere as tens ofthousands of grey-clad, beered-up, smoking Belgians?”
What is clear is that we’ll have to carry on observing,we’ve known cyclo cross in the
UKfor more than half a century but we haven’t quite got a handle on our own breed of it. There is nothing wrong with that but we are going to have to side with someone.
Prepare for a culture clash and some answers on the 2ndFebruary 2013.
Thank-you to Helen Wyman – www.helenwyman.com
Ian Cleverly – Rouleur Magazine – Rouleur.cc/blog