The rise and rise of cyclo-cross

Experts from the increasingly popular discipline discuss its success and what the future may hold

Oli Pepper, Morvelo Bicycle Apparel

Oli Pepper, of apparel brand Morvelo, is one of the men behind City Cross – a new concept based on cyclo-cross racing but catering for the urban scene. Having taken over Halifax’s Piece Hall earlier this month with a challenging course set in the Hall’s grounds, and in its corridors, Pepper explained the idea was formed from his own commute to work through Sussex University.

And he hopes the success of events like City Cross – which attracted 250 riders across all its categories – will help to add to the rise in popularity of what he believes is becoming an ever-more accessible sport in Britain.

He explained: “City Cross was all lent from  my longer ride into work . I go through Sussex University, and there’s mass of steps and alleyways and single tracks. I started to ride it on my cross bike and found it really good fun. It just reminded me of being younger and riding round on impromptu courses that you’d set up.

“A mountain bike is too sluggish for the road, and of course a road bike is useless as soon as you go off road, so the cross bike was ideal.

“Halifax was brilliant. It was pretty much exactly what we envisaged – mixing traditional ‘cross with an urban event.

“It was a case of playing with the format, using 20 minute heats instead of longer races for example. It makes it more spectator-friendly and the races a bit closer. That was what happened too, there was lots of really good, close racing across all the categories.

“I don’t get to see too many domestic events now, but I remember going to the Brighton London League events, and there would be about 30-40 people there. I did one of them recently and there was 120 people riding. There were 250 at city cross across the categories too – it definitely keeps on increasing.”

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