In case you hadn’t heard, the first 2013 issue of Paved is now in bike shops, on traditional newsstands and available for download on iTunes and Zinio. Since we’re proud of the way this new issue turned out, and all fired up by the start of this year’s racing season, we decided to give you a gratis look at one of the features inside issue 4.1.
Writer Sal Ruibal and photographer Brian Vernor traveled to Belgium in early 2012 to capture the essence of international cyclocross. We hope you enjoy.
After getting the boot from my major national newspaper sports-writing gig, I thought I’d had seen the last of my favorite cycling haunts: the cobbles and ditches of the spring pavé classics and the mud-drenched, beer-soaked winter sport of European pro cyclocross. It wasn’t so much the sport itself—I’d seen hundreds of races—but the human circus that attends these events, the tens of thousands of rabid fans who leave their barns and forges and cozy Brussels offices to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, ankle-deep in beer, urine and, in the case of the 2012 World Championship site, sand. Lots and lots of sand. In the host city of Koksijde, the North Sea dunes have crept inland, invading backyards, parking lots and anything not taller than a cyclocross barrier.
Buses and cars from all over Belgium, The Netherlands and northern France began moving towards Kortrijk in the early morning hours, sleepy drivers and sleeping passengers wearing the uniform of the day: knee-high, black rubber boots, with corduroy work pants tucked in, quilted barn coats with deep pockets for tobacco, matches and three or four cans of Jupiler beer.
The sun was barely up as the armies began their march on Koksijde. Brats were already grilling and the greasy smoke worked its way around the dunes. The junior riders were already warming up on rollers in vacant lots. The pros were still in the hotel shower, washing their hair as they imagined what the day would bring. Only one thing was certain: They would feel deep pain, which for all but a few, would not be rewarded with victory.—Sal Ruibal