Sunday, May 19, 2013



Veldrijden, or "field riding" in Flemish is the historical term for Cyclocross in Belgium and much of Europe. It is one of the earliest forms of bicycle racing with the first national championship race held in France in 1902. The Dutch speaking region of northern Belgium known as Flanders was especially taken by the sport. Belgium held it's first national championship in 1910 and to this day remains the heart and soul of the sport, with over 40% of the world championship races going to Belgian riders (the great Erik De Vlaeminck won 7 of them himself).

History notes that the discipline initially started as a way for road racers to stay fit in the winter offseason. These loosely organized events were point to point affairs, usually from one town or city to the next where riding through fields, portaging the bike over walls and fences, and hiking through streams were all par for the course. Some of the earliest races were called Steeplechases because as with the running races of the same name, the only clear point of direction were the church steeples in each town. 

Cyclocross is widely recognized as one of the hardest forms of bicycle racing and its heroes and champions are legendary for their ability to race at 100% for a solid hour through the hardest terrain in weather more suitable for cross country ski racing than cycling. It's a discipline of cycling that is not for the faint of heart, and is definitely an acquired taste. As such, cyclocross fans tend to be as hearty as the racers themselves, and watching them can be nearly as enjoyable as watching the racing itself. 

The growth of cyclocross has reached a fever pitch here in the U.S. over the last couple of years. Dozens of regional racing series have cropped up and more and more UCI sanctioned events are happening every year. This year, for the first time in history, the UCI world championships made their way to American soil and brought out the craziest and toughest cycling fans the U.S. has to offer. I was not there myself, but from what I have seen, read and heard those who were there more than held their own as a fan base and sent our international visitors home with a new found respect for the support of cyclocross on this side of the pond. TIme will only tell, and one can only hope, that it won't take another half century to get a world cup race back here. 

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