Not everyone gets a kick out of watching an hour’s worth of blurry Youtube cyclocross videos of old races in 10-minute segments, but if you haven’t noticed, we kinda do.
Our motivation for watching older races is not from longing for the good ol’ days (typically we’re not old enough), but rather to appreciate how far our sport has evolved and put any recent developments into proper big picture, historical perspective.
Looking back almost thirty years to watch the 1988 Professional Cyclocross World Championships in Hägendorf, Switzerland is a great refresher or history crash course on another era of the sport.
In 1988, the Swiss, not Belgians were dominant, with three out of the top five pro men, with Roland Liboton finishing as the top Belgian back in sixth.
Swiss cyclist Pascal Richard was still on the way up, well before he’d go on top win the climber’s jersey in the Giro and the 1996 Olympic Road Race gold medal in Atlanta (upsetting pre-race favorite Lance Armstrong).
Back then, running also had a bigger role in the sport, with long stretches of leg-burning run-ups and muddy fields, and the heavy course created huge time gaps.
Even bike exchanges and pits were different, as pit crews lined the course without a separate pit lane, and racers could “inadvertently” dump their bikes in front of racing competitors who weren’t pitting.
Equipment was sure different as well, with toe clips, bar-end shifters, wide-profile Mafac cantilevers and leather hairnets being the default equipment. However, this was about to change, as SPD pedals, foam helmets and STI levers were all coming down the pipeline. Don Myrah, racing the amateur race, showcases the equipment of the day, including a robust spoke protector “pie plate” that just might have been useful this year in Bieles:
One thing from 1988 that remains today? A Van der Poel in second, and uncontrollable tears of joy by a winner.
Enjoy our newly-created playlist of this 10-part video series uploaded by cChunkstardeluxe from the 1988 Cyclocross World Championships in Hägendorf, Switzerland below. Our legs hurt after watching one lap.
(You can skip the first minute. The podium ceremony is of the amateurs, with Karel Camrda winning.)