A jaw-dropping slice of 'cross action from 1962, featuring Beryl Burton, John Rawnsley and a whole new level of grim.
I understand that some of you find the very notion of cyclo-cross totally repugnant. Honestly, I get that. Cycling is all about the open road, fresh air, looking good, speed. ‘Cross is none of these, except for the open air bit, and only then on days when it is warm enough to actually take in a lungful of the stuff.
Cyclo-cross is, on the whole, pretty rank. It hurts. You get covered in cack. It is cold. On regular occasions, a mechanical will mean you don’t even finish the race. More time will be spent cleaning bikes and kit than riding. As unglamorous branches of the sport go, ‘cross is way out on it’s own.
And yet… And yet…
It is so hard to put a finger on it. Dismounting at an obstacle and remounting efficiently; cornering on mud so deep the tyres have disappeared in the gloop – tread choice? Who cares? They’re all shit! – coping admirably with a section where others have failed. And the broad, broad smiles at the finish line; the post-race stories of mishaps and triumphs – that is what makes cyclo-cross so addictive. Some will hate it; others can’t wait for October to come around.
If you have read the issue 34 feature on John Rawnsley and the Three Peaks, it is worth watching this tremendous film of the 1962 national championships, featuring Mr Rawnsley himself, preceded by the great Beryl Burton in the inaugural women’s race.
It is, in turns, hilarious, gripping, depressing and jaw-dropping. For those of you unconvinced by the appeal of ‘cross, it will serve to strengthen your resolve. For fans of the sport, it is essential viewing.
Think you’ve got it rough these days? Think on…