I’ve just seen the really great news that Belgian tv station Sporza is going to be showing all the women’s Bpost Bank Trofee races for the next three years, as well as the women’s World Cups, all without geo-restrictions – starting this weekend, with Ronse – so what better time to tell you how to follow the races?
For any cyclocross newbies, I’ll include which ones you really should watch, and while I’ll focus on the European circuit, I’ll include some details of the USA as well – but if you want to start at the beginning, my CX in a sentence: Riders race laps of a course that includes man-made and natural obstacles like sand, hills, barriers and SO MUCH MUDDY CARNAGE! which is so hard they have to get off and run with the bikes at points – they race for an hour (50 mins for the women) and the first across the line wins! Helen Wyman once described it as “the muddiest, funnest sport of attrition” and that sums it up nicely!
If you want more than that, there’s a great newbie guide to cyclocross, Cyclocross Q&A and a short primer on why CX is so awesome over on Podium Café, and there are four What is cyclocross? videos on Behind the Barriers, explaining the sport in general, starts, cornering and barriers & obstacles, presented by US pro Jeremy Powers.
There are three big series in cyclocross: the World Cup, bpost bank trofee and the SuperPrestige, and once the season kicks off, there are usually two of these races a weekend, with special Belgian holidays like Boxing Day and New Year’s Day celebrated with more races! The women’s races pretty much always start at 13:30 European CET (12:30pm UK GMT, 7:30am North American EDT and 11:30pm Aussie AEDT) men’s races pretty much always start at 15:00 CET, which makes life easier.
I’ll start with a word about getting round geo-restrictions, as this will come up a lot. A lot of CX is limited to specific broadcasters, so you may need to find ways round this. I use a VPN, with huge thanks to the wonderful person who bought it for me, and I recommend this. VPNs are Virtual Private Networks, and they’re legal – cycling blogger inrng has a great post explaining all about them. You set yourself to a country that the stream is shown in (eg UK for the UCI stream, Belgium for sporza) and your computer is read as being there. There are paid-for services, which you can buy by the day, week, month and year – I use Witopia, but there are tons more. Then there are the free ones – Tunnelbear and Betternet, which I personally haven’t used. Tunnelbear sets you up with a limited allowance, but you can turn off the TB once the stream’s running.
And of course there are pirate streams, and sites that find them for you – BVLS is best for CX, and there’s also ProCycling Live and Cyclingfans. Just be really careful not to click on adverts, as they’re notorious for having malware in them – adblocker helps me out massively here! So that’s how to watch…
The UCI cyclocross calendar is here – CDM means World Cup, C1 is the next category of importance, then C2, and CN are national-level races – but it’s not easy to work out as a newbie – the trick is to spot the series names to see which are the important ones.
Other resources to help you follow races? Belgian tv station Sporza have a really nifty Match Centre, which puts up live graphics and information on the men’s races, with links to their livestreams, and has tons of information about each series too (“Veldrijden” is the Dutch name for CX, World Cup is WB, or Werelbeker, and women is “vrouwen” – you’ll soon pick up Dutch following cyclocross!). The UCI Cyclocross twitter account focuses on their races but has all kinds of fun things, and I have a twitter list of women CX riders if you want to follow them.
I adore Balint Hamvas‘ cyclocross photography – check out his website for galleries from the big races, his book about the 2014/5 season, and follow his twitter. My friend Caro Cardinaels contributes to Balint’s books, and it’s her fantastic descriptions of crazy CX races that got me into the sport in the first place – while of course it’s out-of-date, I really recommend her 2013/14 calendar on Podium Café to get an idea of what the races are like, and which ones to watch. I also get my CX fixes from Cyclingnews’ has CX portal, Cyclocross Rider, and Cyclocross Magazine.
So, on with the races…
This series is the one run by the UCI, with the women’s and men’s races streamed live on the UCI youtube channel, which I think is un-restricted everywhere except Belgium, where other tv stations have the rights, and the USA, where in the past the rights were bought by Cycling TV. Sporza have been streaming the women’s races this season, which is excellent -watch via their matchcenter.
Update! Eurosport is showing
This year there are 7 races, and all the startlists, results and rankings will be here on the UCI site. The season started early this year, heading out of Europe for the first time ever, to CrossVegas, USA – highlights and the full race replay on the UCI Youtube.
I’ll be especially watching out for Koksijde, a super-famous race in Belgian sand-dunes on 22nd November (watch 2014 videos) and I always love Namur, on 20th December – this is in the woods around the Citadel, with lots of MTB-type elements (2014 videos) – and the fast and furious Heusden-Zolder on 26th December is on the same course as this year’s World Championships (2014 videos).
Information about the series, with dates, results and rankings, and links to race sites, is on the UCI CX World Cup page.
It used to be that this was the hardest series to watch, but that news that Sporza will be showing them is just spectacular. Their livestream is un-restricted, via their matchcenter, or you can watch another stream on the bpost page that goes up on the day of each race is available pretty much everywhere, or via this link.
8 races this year, and I have a massive softspot for Sunday’s GP Mario de Clercq, aka Ronse, which is very grassy, and in the past had Zdenek Stybar nearly land on a baby, and Niels Albert lose his bike. Good times! (2014 Ronse videos) My other favourites are the GP Twenty20 Koppenbergcross on 1st November, the first European C1 race to give equal prize money to women thanks to Baltimore bike shop Twenty20 (want to help do it again and win a trip to the race? Buy a special raffle ticket!) The race includes that cobbled climb and fields full of mud (and cowdung) over and over and over, and it’s glorious (livestream here). And I ever since the Schelde nearly flooded on it, I’ll always watch Scheldecross, on 19th December – I love the off-camber sandy runs.
The bpost bank trofee website is excellent, with tons of information about each race in a standardised form, with links to race sites too. It’s all in Dutch, but if you don’t understand the language, you’ll work out where to by the icons. Women = “vrouwen”.
The final series, and the one that’s frustrating cyclocross fans everywhere. It used to be that the men’s races were broadcast live on Belgian channel vier, with no restrictions, and for years this was the easiest series to watch for non-Belgians – and while they didn’t show the women’s races, they’d have 9 minute highlights videos that were great to watch. But this year they’ve changed all that and the series is now on a pay-for station only, Play Sports, which has also bought up the Belgian rights to the World Cup, a move that’s seriously annoying a lot of Belgian fans. It seems like the tablet app is only for Belgians, too, so while it’s good for the Belgian series that CX can raise money like this, it’s really bad for the internationalisation of the sport – and bad too, for women’s cycling fans, as the only highlights from the women’s race at the first round, Gieten, was a short clip on Dutch station RTV Drenthe.
Their series has 8 races, and my favourite is Zonhoven on 25th October, which takes place in and around a huge sandpit, with crazy-steep descents and then a brutal climb back up, which is a killer on the first lap, let alone the final. And now we can’t see it… Crazy times….
The Superprestige website has all the dates, and links to each race page.
The biggest, most competitive races happen in Europe, but the Cyclocross scene in the USA is continually growing and developing – and they have some fantastic home-made media that makes following the races a lot of fun. In the Crosshairs always have good coverage, on their site and just their videos on Vimeo., and Dirt Wire have lots and lots of rider video interviews as well as race footage. Behind the Barriers and Cycling Dirt used to do race videos, but I can’t see any recent ones – maybe they’ll come back? And CX Magazine has lots of interviews and galleries all season long.
So that’s my run-down, and I’ll be back later in the season to tell you more about some of the riders, and how to follow them – and of course I’ll post videos, photos and news here on the blog, and on my Tumblr, throughout the season. If there’s anything I’ve missed, or you have top tips to share, please do leave me a comment, or tell me on twitter – and if I can answer any questions, just let me know.
Thanks, as always, to my Patreon supporters, who fund me to write about women’s cycling – I appreciate you very, very much