The Link: Cyclo-cross à Melun, 1924

If the origins of ‘cross remain unclear, the notion that road riders founded the discipline as a base winter fitness routine is rubbished by a letter sent to the French Cycling Union in 1901. 

Daniel Gousseau, formerly a private in the French army, sought official sanction from the governing body for racing involving no set route, taking in fields, streams, stone walls and any other obstacles nature might throw in the riders’ way, as training and preparation for war – a sound idea at the time, perhaps, but hardly sufficient for the carnage of the Flanders battlefields 13 years later. 

Early cyclo-cross was, much like road racing at the time, brutally hard. Actually riding the bike was a rarity. Here, Paris champion Nicolas Urme trudges uphill with the banks of the Seine in the background. 

Suggested by Graeme Stewart


17.1 – Stybar slips on the Carrefour de l’Arbre, 2013

17.2 – Cancellara outwits the sprinters in Compiègne, 2007

17.3 – Tony Martin’s amazing 175km solo break, 2013

17.4 – Philippe Tesnière and the battle for lanterne rouge, 1980

17.5 – Lance Armstrong’s bully tactics, 2004

17.6 – Ivan Basso’s off-road excursion, 2003

Your photo suggestions to follow on from this story for issue 17.8 please.

A suitably tough modern equivalent of early ‘cross, perhaps? Carrying a bike when it should clearly be ridden? Email the connection and the story to

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