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And now for something completely different: Cyclocross

And now for something completely different: Cyclocross

Billy Thackray Billy Thackray

Dirt contributors Rod “Rodders” Fountain and Steve “The Butcher” Walker had a go at this Cyclocross lark and discovered it was a bit bloody difficult!

The full story is in the next issue of the magazine, Dirt #130, so you can read all about their pain then. But for now here’s a video of the first Rapha Supercross race and an interview with the winner Paul Oldham.

How gay is that?

Words: The Butcher
Photos: Duncan Philpott

Someone (it was actually a downhill rider) once said the above to me. He was referring to the fact that I had told him about cyclo-cross racing and how we (myself and Rod Fountain) had planned on racing the RAPHA cross races.

Now let’s get a few things into perspective here. When he said ‘gay’ did he mean that I liked boys and not girls or that I secretly attended the annual village maypole festival and danced my cares away? Have you ever heard the expression ‘As gay as a maypole’? In other words, if you dance around a maypole (for fun) you’re Jolly, jovial, not manly? After riding and racing cyclo-cross I can assure you that anyone who enters and races as hard as they possibly can, is as tough as any bike rider can be.

If you doubt my word (or words) ring Paul Oldham.

Paul Oldham, who’s that? I hear you (downhillers, 4xers, dirt jumpers and enduro riders) say? Well I’m going to tell you. Paul has been national cyclo-cross champion, he recently won round two of the RAPHA super x series at Lutterworth by a country mile, he rides a bicycle (that looks like it belongs on the road)! Off road, as though he’s on a downhill bike and is fitter than any mother fookin, bastard butchers dog on the planet (which is saying something as I’ve dated a lot of dogs and I am a butcher). If you think you’re fit and good on a bike, go out for a ride with Oldham. After ten minutes you’ll be weeping like a baby…

Butcher: First up. Congratulations on your Rapha super x victory at Minerston Hall. You smashed it. Did you and the Hope team have a pre-race game plan?

Paul Oldham: Our main aim was to win each round and let the team classification sort it’s self out. We all race for every possible finish position, so you can never relax no matter what place you are in.

The Butcher wondering what the hell he’s let himself in for.

It was my first ever Rapha cyclo-cross race and I loved it. The atmosphere, the Belgian beer, waffles and cowbells were icing on the cake. Being as you’re as seasoned cross racer what was your opinion on the event?

I think they are a very welcome change from the normal national trophy events. They are more about entertaining the crowd rather than the riders. I do think that there’s room in the calendar for both. There is nothing better than racing in front of a good crowd!

Do you think there should be more Rapha type races (instead of just three) on the cross calendar?

I think maybe it should be 2 double-header weekends, but it does seem to work as 3, and I do enjoy the fact that it’s done and dusted in 2 weeks.

I’m completely hooked on cross racing (I usually spend most my time down the B.M.X track). But someone says the season finishes late December/early January. How come?

Yeah cross is a winter sport so the season runs from September to the end of January. This is so it doesn’t clash with the road/ MTB season. Also you don’t get as much mud in summer!

You ride and work for HOPE. After your victory at the RAPHA race, when you turned up for work Monday morning, did the boss bring you tea and biscuits all day?

That would have been nice! Ha ha. Hope have backed me for years now, and to be honest without their help I would struggle to race at this level. I get flexi time to train etc, and a big motorhome to travel to races in, which with two kids is a godsend!

Nice day for it.

Tell us Dirt readers about your bike set-up and the essential elements to what makes a good cross bike for racing on?

A cross bike is a cross between a road bike and a mountainbike; it’s basically a road bike with knobbly tires. A good cross bike needs to be light, good mud clearance and have disc brakes! I generally set my cross bikes up the same way as my road bike.

Tell us about tub wheels and the fact that the tires are actually glued to the rim! What do you use blue tack, bostick, or super-glue?

My life would be easier if we used blu tack! The tubs are stuck with a contact adhesive, which needs multiple coats on rim and tire. This takes ages, but the benefits outweigh the hassle with improved rolling and grip. Tubs have to be stuck well, if they come off your face hits the floor pretty quick! I always got told that there are two jobs you always do yourself, your missus and your tubs!

Have HOPE got any plans to bring out an off the peg, (competitively priced) complete cyclo-cross bike and if so when can I buy one?

Ha ha. We have been asked for team replicas, so watch this space!!

A month before I knew what I’d let myself in for, I tried to train for a 3-4 hours a week (mainly xc mountain bike riding). Without giving too much info away to your competitors what’s your training schedule and do you follow a specific programme (or just go for a blast around the woods like me)?!

I train mainly on the road due to being tight on free time. I generally do 2/3hrs three days a week, mixing in things like power work and speed intervals. The other days I just ride to work and back which is about 25min each way. Off-road training gets harder as the season goes on as it’s darker, wetter and I’m fed up of washing bikes!

I’m liking the foam pit feature!

Have you ever, or do you still race mountain bikes?

I started out racing MTBs and still do. I’ve been u/23 national champion and ridden two world champs. I still love mtb racing but I’m getting too old and my mortgage is too big for the new generation of world cup courses.

Cyclo-cross is massive in Belgium with most of the top events getting live t.v. coverage. Have you any plans to move there?

Cross is massive in Belgium, it is part of their culture. The races are a social event with plenty of beer and Euro pop. The fans are really clued up about the whole sport and for riders it’s great to race with such an atmosphere twice a week. I reckon I’m way too old for a move.

Where do you see yourself and U.K. cyclo-cross in 2-3 years and do you think it will ever be a mainstream past time (similar to mountain biking)?

I still think I can carry on improving and being competitive in the UK, I only started doing well about five years ago after an operation on an artery which gave me two equal legs. From then on I’ve improved no end. Cross is becoming more mainstream and things like the Rapha series is only going to raise its profile.

It’s not a race without a Mexican in spandex handing out Tequilla!

What advice can you give to anyone who rides a mountain bike who fancies giving cyclo-cross racing a go?

Try it. Cross is probably one of the easiest disciplines to get involved in, it’s proper grass roots with friendly approachable people. It is also one of the only sports where total novices and elite riders share the same race. No matter if you are at the front or back there is always someone to race.

Every top racer has people they want to thank. After racing myself at the RAPHA, I realise the effort and sacrifices you must make on a weekly basis, to be as good as you are! If anyone has earned a ‘thank you list’ it’s you Paul, so here you go. Thank away!

As most races are promoted by clubs and volunteers’ a big thanks to them.
Also, Hope technology for their support of our team.
The biggest thing is a supportive wife, which I have, so thanks to Sally and the kids.

The Butcher: So whether your gay, straight, bi, like to prance around in your grannies underwear, ride bmx or mountain bikes, next time you see a cyclo-cross rider (even if he or she is dressed in lycra) give them the respect they deserve. They are extremely fit and can jig around a pole (and not just in the month of May as cyclo-cross races are all held in the winter) better than most.
‘Butch’ big pole…..or so I’m told.

  1. jonzo


  2. scott

    SingleDirt? DirtTrack?
    When are you going to start reviewing rigid singlespeed 29er fatbikes?

  3. WAKi

    So… Can we have a test what is faster on a CX course: 29er with CX tyres or full-on CX bike?

  4. nozes

    People having fun riding bikes on dirt can’t ever be a bad thing.

    1. Rod Fountain

      Just about sums it up for me, Nozes. Cheers mate.

  5. g

    people may have fun doing it, but then some grown men have fun playing with action figures. Not for me.

  6. the butcher

    I look like a right twat in that lycra in catalogue pose mode.

  7. scott

    Don’t get me wrong it does look fun but it looks exactly the same as when I used to race XC in the early 90’s (apart from the beer and foam) and Dirt refuses to acknowledge XC. Combine this with this months rather “light” mag (which I was going excuse because of the Big Bumper Book of Adverts you were probably busy with) I’m starting to think you’re struggling for content in the digital age.

    1. ed

      Total page count may be down scott in the latest issue, but if you count all the pages of editorial up you’ll actually notice that it’s the same as previous issues.

  8. Nick T

    Breathing in there i think Butch or is cyclocross that good for burning off all that serloin?

  9. the butcher

    I think we should cover xc racing! Its tough, hard and if the course is how it should be technical. Mountain bikers should pull together. Not split apart!

  10. Leo

    I agree with Butcher’s last comment. Too many people have this view that XC isn’t hardcore. How many riders here can descend super fast on hardtail with 80mm shocks, skinny tyres & seatpost at max height?!? Dirt wld cover the real XC races/riding, not the local grassy field type stuff!

    1. gray

      Seriously fook that sh*t off!!
      Yes XC is on dirt and hard as hell, but if i wanted to read about it id buy a XC dedicated mag! Dirt is Downhill and other extreme bike related disciplines…. end of.
      If they start covering XC then my subs will be ‘end of’!

  11. matt

    Sports evolve and when that happens, some should die. Riding bikes is fun, but the gap between xc and cyclecross is getting too close. XC courses are getting tamed down and that`s why the whole 29 inch wheel thing got started. With the skills and technology in bikes today, you shouldn`t have to get off your bike while racing.

    1. nozes

      I don’t see xc races beeing tamed down from where I look,and the whole 29er thing was pushed by marketing to keep the sales up there. Same thing with 650b.

  12. FoomanG

    Ha there’s even people watching and stuff, looks like good banter! There’s been so many outdoor sports events kicking off these days, tri, bi, adventure races, 24hr, enduros, 24hr tri, good to see.

  13. b

    agree, xc and cx may be difficult and the fit boys would leave me standing, but god damn its fuckin boring to watch/read about, keep it out of dirt I say, there’s plenty of mags to read if thats your thang.

    1. WAKi

      I thoght that DH is one of the most boring sports to watch, 1.5min to see a guy for a couple of sec. And the finish area: Frederic Zboulean +2.123 rank 3 yaaay! 1.5 min – Margus Schrapnell +1.225 rank 3 yaaay! Gimme last 10 and lets get a beer. Boring pish not working at all without following spices: geek powder, nerd root and Warners piss.

  14. rh

    CX in the mag is not what I subscribed for. If I had the choice I could ‘not buy’ that issue. I don’t really care if the lads involved had a laugh doin’ it – Dirt should not contain this sort of faggotry!

    1. jonzo

      …deary me!

  15. Jamazepam

    I like this coverage in dirt. What’s wrong with a bit of variety! Not all listeners are into radio 1 content! Some is like 6music! Dirt is like 6music! Cycling tastes evolve, move with the times.

  16. g

    fair enough point but some will be quick to point out that if as you say ‘dirt moves with the times’ then they shall appropriately move with the times aswell and not buy it anymore.

  17. Mat

    As i’m getting older i’m getting more into this kind of thing. I raced a CX race this winter and couldn’t believe one, how much fun riding a road bike around a muddy field was, two, how much GRIP the bikes had! and three, how bloody hard it is! Didn’t finish the race as i don’t believe in that much effort! People look at you funny when you rock up in baggys with flat pedals too…….
    Still don’t think it should be in Dirt Mag, but once is fine i think.

  18. oliver

    Wow. What a lot of narrow minded people read Dirt. They obviously don’t realise that Dirt is what it is due to the style of journalism more than it’s content.

  19. Craig B

    OFFS! I ride bike. Bikes on dirt. One on road too. They’re bikes. They’re cool. You might ride one bike one day and try a different bike the next. That’s fine. There is so much cross over that we should just enjoy it and stop crapping on other stuff just because it does not fit your fashionista point of view.

    1. Craig B

      Oh – just in case its not clear. I am fine with the CX thing too. Where can we get a foam wash as standard?

  20. b

    Dirt can put what they like on their website, it costs me nothing and I don’t have to watch it, but when I’ve paid good money for a mag and they’re filling it with shit then it bothers me, if I was remotely interested in cx I would have looked it up by now, its not exactly new .

  21. Slimfordy

    I think the point was to show mountain bikers trying another bike discipline. All the really anti comments seem a bit harsh. Ok your buying a certain mag for a certain reason. But no one made you follow this link and watch this video. I think the DH set need to realise to a lot of people our beloved sport is an oddity

  22. Glyn

    No No No. There are loads of magazines in whsmith’s that cater for general crossover xc stuff. The reason ive been buying dirt since issue 1 is that it focused on the hardcore side of the sport. Just cos it’s fun to pedal, it’s shit to read about. I’d rather you stuck in some mx or bmx if you’re stuck for content. No more xc/29er/adventure/cx wank. Thanks

  23. Neil

    people stop being so narrow minded I’m an elite xc/cx racer but love reading dirt watching rampage, downhill, bmx etc it’s all good it’s riding bikes. oh yes butcher has got trim from racing cross 😉

  24. Miguel F

    I like, and I subscribe ! :)

  25. Rgblackb

    Yawn, to be honest I don’t really look forward to my dirt mag coming through the door anymore.

  26. Mark

    All the haters on this comment thread should maybe think about this; riding a skinny tyred, rigid bike as hard as you can for a few months of the year in the off-season is only going to help you become a better downhill rider right? Improved fitness, sharpen up your handling skills and maybe give you a fresh perspective on your riding. Anyone who doesn’t think the top pros aren’t out pounding the roads on their road bikes in the off season for at least part of their training hasn’t watched any downhill coverage for about 5 years.

    If Dirt started carrying TdF reports in the middle of the World Cup season I think people might have cause to complain but a bit of variety in the off season? Go for it I say.

    Full disclosure: I own a cross bike and ride it a lot in the winter including the odd Scottish Cyclocross Series race. Sharpens up the handling and gets me fit see… :)

  27. Rupert

    I’m afraid I can’t be doing with road bikes period.
    Sure, it’s impressive that people can keep one upright on mud and I don’t doubt it’s pretty exciting riding one in those conditions, because riding any bike on the edge of grip/control is entertaining.
    However, I have to agree that just becasue it’s conducted on dirt and the riders deserve some respect, doesn’t mean it should be turning up in what is supposed to be a specialist magazine.

    We are broadly interested in bikes and terrain that is simply better than this. The bikes are good becasue they are designed for the purpose at hand and allow most of us to ride better than ever on more challenging stuff. It’s bloody exciting and our equipment is genuinely amazing compared to even a few years ago – regardless of some undeniable marketing agendas.

    If you don’t have access to any decent terrain or can’t be arsed to pick up a shovel and make what you’ve got challenging, then by all means make your dirt/life more difficult and ride a CX bike, but I don’t want to hear stories about how technical/slippery a flat grassy turn was in your last race & I don’t want to see you reading Dirt!

    Also, having read all the comments above, I can’t help saying that Dirt lost it’s magic for me when it stopped being bi-monthly. I still love it, but not enough to subscribe any more.
    I used to feel like I could confidently hand a copy to someone who knew nothing about our sport and say, “have a read, this sums up where we’re at and what we enjoy better than I ever could”. The magazine just expressed things better back then. (Or am I just misty-eyed?)

  28. Rod Fountain

    I saw a feature on ukuleles in a guitar mag’ once. I enjoyed reading it and bought a uke. Now I have a guitar AND a uke and owning / liking both doesn’t cause me sleepless nights. Also that mag’ didn’t run another uke’ feature, but I’m glad it ran that one because it broadened my horizons (I’d thought the uke was an un-evolved toy before that). Funny old world…

  29. Dirt Factory

    Only just watched this. I competed in CX when i was a nipper, heres the pics to prove it https://www.facebook.com/Dirtfact now im a full on downhiller/trail rider. Ive gotta thank my early experiences to appreciate what i love now!

  30. El Tel

    Brilliant article. I ride mtb and cx bikes ,both are great fun. My mate Mole knows a butcher who sell bikes, is this butcher the same one? Cheers El Tel

    1. the butcher

      it is tel. Unfortunately everything I sell is at a loss because I have a bike buying then selling problem. I have a problem feature is on its way. Glad you liked it! Its a great sport, along with bmx, 4x, downhill, xc and enduro. A race is a race at the end of the day!

  31. Rod Fountain

    Race at Gunpowder Park in Essex this Sunday if anyone wants to see what it’s all about.

  32. the butcher

    and for you midlanders there’s a league race at warwick. Waldrons cyclocross. Have a look. What else you gonna do?


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