Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, side by side in Flanders. Via flickr by ef2204

Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, side by side in Flanders. Via flickr by ef2204

by Josh Liberles

Cyclocross season hasn’t been over for long now, and as we watch the best roadies duke it out in northern Europe, the oft-asked question is, “Why don’t more of these guys race cyclocross?”  – Lars Boom, Marianne Vos, Steve Chainel, et al excluded. The obvious short answer is that the pay scales between road and cyclocross just don’t compare. However as recent races have loudly demonstrated, including an incredible mid-race bike swap by yesterday’s eventual Tour of Flanders winner Fabian Cancellara (see video below), these guys have the skills. Even more importantly, many of the “cyclocross-specific techniques” actually can play a crucial role in a road race when things get dicey. Lance Armstrong’s cross-country jaunt, after swerving to miss a broken Joseba Beloki on a high-speed corner in the 2004 Tour de France, and his subsequent ‘cross dismount/remount, may be the most famous crossover moment. But ‘cross teaches riders how to deal with less-than-desirable surfaces and conditions, skills that benefit any tarmac specialist. Armstrong, for one, has more than dabbled in both mountain biking (Leadville) and cyclocross (Cross Vegas).

The Spring Classics inevitably conjure up references to cyclocross. It’s typically cold, and the road surfaces often intersperse cobblestones and mud. The top pros ride custom, beefier bikes and wheels designed to take some of the sting out of the atrocious parcours. Wider tires are the norm, and over the years bikes have borrowed elements from their dirtier brethren, including cantilever bikes and even a road-specific RockShox suspension fork.

It’s great that the disciplines borrow technology from one another, but more significant that the riders make use each of the sports to have skills in place for whatever comes their way. The next time you’re trying to convince a roadie to try cyclocross, share this video snip from yesterday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). Keep in mind that this is done at full-speed, with protruding road cleats, while keeping pace with the lead group – and cleaner than many cyclocross bike exchanges I’ve seen. Cancellara had already flatted on the pave and changed wheels, but still had a bike problem. Here was the solution:

(Note: SWEET! The YouTube version is back online after an absence of a few days…)