In just under four weeks’ time, the Hüttcross crew in Wellington will kick off their 2015 cyclocross season. What has this got to do with you as a mountain biker? Read on to find out.
The sport undoubtedly has a rich lineage tied to road cycling. Anecdotally, the whole code originated from idle roadies looking to cultivate some wacky off-season form. And riders such as Marianne Vos, Zdeněk Štybar and Lars Boom further contribute to the roadie image of ’cross-pollination. But it would be wise to bear in mind that those three riders are much more rad than your average roadie fare.
Just recently, Vos fractured a rib in preparation for an Austrian mountain bike race. In 2012, images emerged of Štybar in full world champion garb doing a filthy great huck on a pink ‘cross bike. And during Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France, Boom rode away over the cobbles in foul conditions (conditions that skittled the GC contenders and sent Chris Froome home) to win the stage solo.
Rock up to the Hüttcross series in Wellington, and the only roadies you’ll find are the ones who eschew the wind trainer as the province of the mundane, who have the handling skills to embrace the greasy unpredictability of a two-wheel drift and who are imbued with the fortified soul of diversity. Our current national champs, Brendon Sharratt and Kim Hurst, are both fine examples of riders who have dipped their toes in several different codes and consistently proved themselves a force to be reckoned with.
And that is to say nothing of the riders who switch between ‘cross and mountain biking in the pro ranks. Adam Craig of the Giant Factory Enduro team is well known for his cyclocross exploits – both domestically and at that nichest of niche competitions: the SSCXWC. Travis Brown is another notable mention.
But more importantly, beneath this stratum of oxygen debt and athletic prowess lies the real heart of the sport: clawing some winter radness from boggy off-camber fields. I’m sure any mountain biker can relate a story where they’ve been tempted outside despite the rankest conditions and found themselves two hours later plastered with mud and grinning like some brand new idiot. The only difference with cyclocross is that you’re joined in your pursuit by over a hundred other like-minded fools in slipping, sliding, careening and flinging yourself around the diabolical lap. It’s a hell of a time.
With three different grades, the Hüttcross events cater for all types: from those who are looking for a good, hard workout, to those looking to diversify and maintain some winter “condition”, to those who are out to roll that smug friend that pipped them at the previous round, to those who want to try fishtail down some perilous slope without going ass over elbow, to those who just want to give it all a try.
If you need any more convincing, here is some media from the talented crossfiend, Ricoh Riott :