Opinion: Britain is now a cyclo-cross nation, local paper comments section proves it

It's easy to feel marginalised and hated out in the world in Lycra, but there is hope to be found

Peel Park men's race
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

I clicked the link wearily. Another one of these all too predictable outrage pieces about the after-effects of a cyclo-cross race.

The Brighton and Hove news reports some locals are angry that Brighton Mitre Cycling Club’s cross race at the weekend has made the local park muddy.

Local councillor Nancy Platts tells the site: “I just don’t think it’s acceptable to turn the park into that mud bath and I think a lot of people are really shocked by it.”

“I’ve had loads of people write to me because they normally walk their dog, kids use the park and we’ve got fitness groups who regularly use the park and massive areas of it now are just mud.”

Why wasn’t it called off due to the heavy rain the piece asks?

I’ve seen a lot of these over the years, you may have as well, local outrage at cyclists being cyclists - how dare they. It’s a staple of local reporting and rightly as, even if I disagree people like Platts, they deserve to have their voice heard. By the same token you’d expect the council to defend the decision to let the event go ahead. 

So far, so run of the mill. But then the comments caught my eye.

Chris, on the state of the park grass, fires back: “Luckily it grows back ! Nothing to see here folks.”

And they’re not a lone voice. Mark Graves adds: “The story is “park muddy in November”. Hundreds of children and their families enjoyed a great day in the rain when the park would have been deserted. The cafe made money when it would have been deserted. The grass has already come back and where is the cost?”

Now is this a full throated embrace of cyclo-cross racing? Perhaps not but it is an acceptance of cyclists right to race and if you’ve been subject to the attitude of far to many drivers on UK roads as i have even an acceptance of our right to exist seems a step forward.

Away from all the vitriol that cycling often finds heading its way in the pages of the press ‘nice to see that perhaps the British public en masse are more accepting than it’s tempting to think.

And this is happening in the context of cyclo-cross a sport that has an even tinier profile than track or road racing, but perhaps importantly one that is growing rapidly.

Maybe I’m getting carried away with the support from a city that is famously liberal but maybe the UK is a cyclo-cross country after all.

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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, World Championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the Middle East. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.