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There is a certain breed of cyclist that looks out at the wet and cold weather we’ve had recently with a glint in their eye. Rather than duck beneath the duvet and hibernate until next spring, they’re the riders who smile at each other and whisper, “’Cross is coming.”
They’re talking about cyclocross, the traditional winter activity that many riders have relied on for years to maintain form over the darker months. Offering the chance to mess around in a field for an hour (cyclocross races are rarely longer, even at elite level) before retiring to the pub, it might just be the thing to keep your pecker up until the clocks change again.
Cyclocross, sometimes shortened to ‘cross or just CX, is huge in Belgium and the Netherlands, where riders like current world champion, Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, and Belgium’s Wout van Aert are treated like superstars. The women’s scene is just as vibrant, again dominated by local riders like Sanne Cant of Belgium and seven-time world champion, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands.
The fun has made the leap across to the UK too, and we’ve got a phalanx of homegrown riders to cheer on, including Yorkshire’s Tom Pidcock, current national and world U23 champion.
Cyclocross asks a lot of riders and their equipment. It takes a lot for a CX race to be cancelled, so they’re often run in the kinds of conditions you’d normally find on the rugby field. As a result the bikes need to be up to the job, and Giant have plenty of experience in the game.
Their TCX range is designed to cope with the conditions and the course, no matter how grimy it all gets. Twisty corners, steep ramps and slippery descents present no problems for this race-bred whip; it’s a light and agile machine ready to take it all on. The 1X drivetrain, wide, grippy tyres and disc brakes all add up to a low-maintenance and high-performing bike, just as suitable for the weekday commute as the weekend mudfest.
Of course, you don’t need a dedicated bike to give ‘cross a go. So long as you’re happy to get your ride mucky any will do, but it’s fair to say that the latest range of gravel bikes is more suitable than your pristine carbon-fibre dream machine. Trek’s Checkpoint and Giant’s super-versatile Anyroad and Toughroad are more than capable if you fancy having a go, though you might find the more relaxed riding position of a gravel bike a touch tardy when it gets really twisty and technical. But seeing as ‘cross is all about fun, these bikes tick a lot of boxes.
Cyclocross races are very welcoming to first-timers, and most events will allow you to ride a mountain bike if that’s all you have. There are ‘cross races all over the country from now until February and even well into March. Give us a call or pop in if you fancy having a go and we’ll see you right. We might even join you.
The pro scene
As we said earlier, ‘cross is massive in northern Europe. Races are held over most weekends, seeing huge crowds descend on the windswept fields of Flanders where drinking beer and eating frites smothered in mayonnaise is the order of the day. Sounds like fun, eh?
The season all builds up to a crescendo with the annual World Championships, this year destined to be held near Zürich in Switzerland on the first weekend in February. It’s basically a massive party, offering spectators the chance to eat, drink, party and watch the very best. Start your CX adventure now and you might just get hooked enough to book your flights.
And next time the wind blows and the rain starts to fall, maybe you too will look at your riding buddies, a mad glare in your eyes, and whisper it: “’Cross is coming.”