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Cross My Heart

Tim Maloney/European Editor

Photo: © Tim Maloney
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The first World Cyclocross champ was crowned in 1950 in Paris. Jean Robic, nicknamed "Tete de Verre" (skull of glass) almost always used a leather helmet after he fractured his skull in the 1944 Paris-Roubaix. Delicate noggined Robic, winner of the 1947 Tour De France took the title ahead of Roger Rondeaux, who went on to dominate the next three editions of the 'Cross Worlds until his fellow Frenchman Andre Dufraisse swept the next five titles.

More beer!
Photo: © Tim Maloney
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Cyclocross began as a way for road riders to have an early form of cross-training in the winter and evolved into a popular spectator sport for cycling fans. Legendary 'Cross riders like Belgians Eric De Vlaeminck, Roland Liboton and Robert Vermiere, Italians Renato Longo and Daniele Pontoni, Germans Rolf Wolfshohl, Klaus-Peter Thaler and Mike Kluge and Swiss rider Albert Zweifel have all excelled at this curious discipline. Top roadmen such as Roger De Vlaeminck, Pascal Richard and Adri Van derPoel have all won World 'Cyclocross championships, too.

Perhaps cyclocross is "a sport that (only) has a hard core of fans in eight Western European countries... therefore we must not want to make it a worldwide spectacle," according to UCI boss Hein Verbruggen. So what? It is still a spectacle and a hell of a lot of fun and in the meantime, cyclocross will continue to be the best-kept secret in the sport of cycling, unless you are a Belgian with a pair of gumboots, a Karcher pressure cleaner and a case of Jupiler beer.

What 'cross race?
Photo: © Tim Maloney
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To follow are some recent images that this reporter (and 'cross fan) shot on a recent trek to Monopoli in southern Italy, perhaps the most unlikely place for a world cyclocross championship ever.

Bikes at the 2003 'Cross Worlds
2003 Cyclocross Worlds


Images by Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews

  • A group of dedicated Mario DeClercq supporters prepared for a fresh downpour with a colorful good luck 'brolly in Monopoli. Go Mario!
  • Yes, they brought their Jupiler beer all the way from Belgium
  • More Jupiler boys awaiting the main event in Monopoli.
  • Let's see… WD-40 for the chain? And Lava Soap to wash those greasy hands after a hard day out in the 'cross pits.
  • Quite a fashion statement, but after 8 Jupilers who would notice?
  • Yes, the staid Swiss have to get in the act, pity there was no Frischy to ring the cowbells for.
  • Tom Vanoppen's suport crew meticulously prep the young Belgian elite 'crossers Ridley rig, checking the new chain link by link for any possible problem.
  • After his best ever season, US Champ Jonathan Page was just glad to finish
  • The lunatics have taken over the asylum: 'Nuff said; now get back on the bus for the 30 hour ride back to Gent!
  • The ritual trek to the 'cross pits begins. Not quite Formula 1, but it'll do.
  • U23 rider Wesley Van Linden's sister (right) and friend welcome big 'bro after his silver medal in Monopoli.
  • Say What? After the finish in Monopoli, Gina Hall (11th) and Ann Grande (10th) wondered where the last lap bell was. Both thought it was still one lap to go.
  • Can I Stop Running Now? Adam Craig broke his chain in the first 10 meters of the race and had to run halfway around the course to get a spare bike at the pits.
  • Paolo Guerciotti checks out the 'cross worlds circuit in Monopoli just before the race.

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