Cyclocross; A Brief and Incomplete World History


As you would expect, the how and where of the origins of Cyclocross is a bit of a discussion. While the Belgians and Dutch certainly seem to have a lock on the sport it wasn’t until the Frenchman Octave Lapize won the 1910 Tour de France and attributed his success to his off-season cyclocross training that it really started to take official racing form. Veldrijden, or ‘field-riding’, began as a means for road racers to continue training through the winter without facing horrendous road conditions. Instead, they took to the fields and forests, honing their handling skills and using the sections where they were forced to portage their bike to help bring the blood back into their toes.

Since the first official UCI championship held in 1950 (won by the miniature Jean Robic, victor in the ’47 TdF), the Belgians have claimed 25 world titles, with the often lesser known De Vlaeminck brother, Eric, taking seven rainbow jerseys. Eric won six consecutive from 1968-1973. Roger De Vlaeminck, aka. “Mr. Paris-Roubiax” won his own title in 1975, perhaps helping to explain his success over the cobbles.

The Women have had a UCI Championship since 2000. Since then Hanka Kupfernagel of Germany has won more medals than anyone else, ten in total, including four World Championship golds. Marianne Vos of Holland has won the past two years and along with the always pig-tailed Daphny van den Brand has the Nederlands with the most overall medals of any country.

There have been some great moments on the world stage, but none perhaps more “entertaining” in recent years than in 2000 when Sven Nys appears to have put contract in front of country, in what seemed like a lack of effort to help countryman Mario De Clercq chase down the Dutch rider, Richard Groenendaal. As the Dutch national anthem played a sheepish Sven looked away while his countryman was in full tears of betrayal on the second step of the podium.

Only once has an American seen the crowd from the other way- when Jonathan Page pulled off an surprising performance for silver in Belgium in 2007. There has yet to be a British rider on a podium, however, by interesting coincidence, in 1992 when the WC’s were held in Leeds, a young German rider by the name of Mike Kluge became a World Champion. Mike soon thereafter launched Focus Bikes and now in 2010 Rapha and Focus have teamed up to sponsor a small team of racers in the U.S. Racers who both have a legitimate shot of representing the United States well at Worlds 2011 to be held in Sankt Wendel, Germany next January.

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