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Monday, 27 August 2012

Go, twenty-five kilometers of enemy land, cross mud, snow, ice, rock and plenty of sand

We have a guest post today from commentator extraordinaire Brendan Bailey.

Longtime fan and supporter of DDCX, Molly Hurford, aka 'The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo' is now a published author, with the release of Mud, Snow and Cyclocross: How 'Cross Took Over US Cycling. (Also available for Kindles, Nooks & iPads!)

On with the show:
I used to write all the race reports for Dirty Deeds. It was a pretty fun job, I gotta admit, even if it was time consuming. As well as getting to make any number of jokes about random in-jokes, I got to tell the stories of the races, and that’s always the best bit. An added bonus I didn’t anticipate, however, was that I got to know a whole bunch of the folks I was sending these reports to.
One of these folks was Molly Hurford of Cyclocross Magazine – the Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo herself. After the Australian season was over we kept emailing back and forth, and eventually became pretty good friends. I sent her a shirt from this year’s DDCX and she asked me to review her new book – Mud, Snow and Cyclocross: How ‘Cross Took Over US Cycling.

I thought that perhaps I’d have to take off my friend hat and put on my cynical reviewer hat, and that that would cause some ructions. But there was no need – the friendly voice Hurford uses in her personal correspondence is exactly the same as the one she uses in her professional writing. It’s relaxed and breezy, and the fun tone makes the book incredibly easy to read. I sat in the back of an Italian class and knocked over fifty pages without taking an eye off students conjugating verbs.

It’s also obvious that Hurford loves the sport, and she brings an insider’s perspective to the writing. She’s obviously spent a lot of time with the people she’s interviewing, and her familiarity seems to put them at ease – her subjects are generally candid and honest, even if they are disagreeing with each other.
The emphasis on oral history means there are a good variety of voices, and Hurford has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that she has spoken to both a demographically representative sample and also the right voices from the early days of US CX.

Reading this from an Australian perspective gives a good picture of just how far behind we are. This is the first year Australia has had a national series; the States had the SuperCup in the late 90s. The States are hosting the World CX Champs this year; Victoria is hosting their first State CX Champs this year. But it also gives an excellent outline for how the sport can grow in this country. This is particularly true of the chapters outlining the various CX races and series across the states –it’s basically a blueprint for how to grow the sport.
Perhaps even more than other kinds of cycling, CX is about personalities, and Hurford doesn’t neglect this. The section on individual racers gives an excellent idea of who is who in the US CX scene, makes us care about the racers, lets us know the riders who until now were simply names on a results sheet.
My favourite section, however, was easily the CX hijinks chapter – perhaps the best thing about CX is the shenanigans, the willingness of even the elite riders to take the piss. And a chapter dealing with some of the best pranks in US CX is always going to be a highlight. I won’t give away any of the lolz here, but rest assured the book doesn’t shy away from the details.
All in all, it’s a pretty sweet book from a pretty sweet individual, and I enjoyed it a lot. I'm pretty sure you can get in on Amazon, or alternatively go bug Malachi at Northside Wheelers - if anyone could get it in, it's probably him.

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