Photo from Le Miroir Des Sports, 09 Mar 1922.
The rocks in the last photo actually have nothing on these (1). Later on, you can see two riders (2 & 3) emerging from the rocky forest, where they were probably chased by bears hired by the organizers. That's how hard these guys were. You can't really tell from the angle of the photos, but Lacolle (the eventual winner) in the 2nd photo is descending into a ravine, and Honoré Barthélemy in the 3rd is clambering out of a cave. Seriously. A freaking CAVE. 18 kilometers. 42' 47" 3/5 was the winning time. Don't even think this stuff was easy.
Photo from Le Miroir Des Sports, 01 Dec 1921.
The principle difficulty of this course? Nothing much, just a climb down a small cliff face (1). No biggie. Not that the runups (2), barely rideable and nearly invisible tracks (3) and steep chutes (4) aren't enough... First cross race of the season that year - at the end of November. Now that's proper. CX is still early in its development at this point (despite already being 20 years old), and it shows in the bikes being ridden here - road bikes for all practical purposes.
Photo from Le Miroir Des Sports, 10 Feb 1931.
This one kicks up a bit at the end... And not only do they have to get up that embankment, but past all those Frenchmen! (especially that snazzily-dressed one curbing his dog...) Seriously, I can't see where they're going after they clear that rooty mess of a lip. The Critérium International was sort of an unofficial World Championships in the 1920s-40s. Henri Deconninck, from Lille (thus the hint of Flemishness in the name...), got this one by more than a minute over his closest rival, Camille Foucaux, a top-notch cyclocrossman in his own right, twice world champion and 4 times French champion. These two, along with the current leader, Auguste Ségaud, make up the leading trio shown here, as they climb towards the Buzenval monument, the first checkpoint on the course (see 01 Jan 07 entry for a map).
Photo from Le Miroir Des Sports, 09 Feb 1932.
"The Northerner Aubert Winsingues, who has escaped completely and won easily, hurtles into the Trou de Diable, like a veritable acrobat, without getting off his bicycle."
Ah, "le Trou du Diable"! This ravine, a feature of the Critérium International course (CX courses back then were run over largely fixed routes, only slightly changed from year to year), was more likely to be run than ridden. Here we see Aubert Winsingues, winner in 1932, taking the chute the hard way. Remember, flexy 1930s sidepull brakes. Hardly the thing to stop you from hitting the bottom of the "Devil's Pit"!...
Something like this chute might seem generally rideable today, but back then it was really quite a challenge, and was far more likely to be run than ridden. Regardless, it's still a pretty impressive drop, and a damn fine shot which gives you a good feel for just how steep an entry it is.
Happy New Year, 'crossers! If you're in the US, your season is basically over, with winter barely begun - there's worlds at the end of the month, but if you're anything like me, it's probably not on your racing schedule... It wasn't so long ago that cx in the states went on into January or even February, but anymore, it's pretty much cooked by the time nationals come around. Back in the proverbial "day", cyclocross went on practically until the start of the early season road races, though - on through the snow of winter and the wet of spring... So, in appreciation of all of you who now have to endure the long months between now and the beginning of next season (and no, I don't mean those way-too-early races in the lousy August and September weather...), here's a little something to tide you over; a special bonus to start off with - the specifics of the first Critérium International de Cross Country Cyclo-Pedéstre, the precursor to the World Championships. I'll be posting more of this stuff, mostly in the form of old photographs, about every other week, maybe every week, until the mud returns, or I run out of material...
Article from L'Union Vélocipedique Du France, 14 Feb 1924.
Organized by l'Auto and the U.V.F. February 17, 1924
L'Auto is organizing, with the assistance of the U.V.F., on February 17, 1924, the first Critérium International de Cross Country Cyclo-Pedéstre.
This test will be opened to license-holders of all national federations recognized by the Union Cycliste International (amateurs or not). In each country the Federation will designate the Cross Country Cyclo-Pedéstre specialists qualified to line up on February 17. The maximum number of riders from each nation (France included) will be six, including four racers.
L'Auto will offer foreign riders chosen by their federations a travel allowance of 200 francs each.
The prizes for the Critérium of l'Auto will be as follows:
For 1st, 1.000 Fr. and a gold medal from the U.V.F.; 2nd, 500 Fr; 3rd 225 Fr.; 4th, 100 Fr.; 5th, 75 Fr.; 6th, 50 Fr.; 7th, 50 Fr.; in addition, a silver medal from the U.V.F., as a souvenir for all other finishers.
Entry fee for a team of 4 riders and two substitutes is 10 Fr., due by January 31.
The rules of the event provides that only four riders per nation start, but each nation may bring six men.
Here are each nations' riders:
Belgium: Van Eelvelde (Theophile), Moerenhout (Henri), De Waels (Maurice), Noel (Hubert), Carels (Gaston), Debaets (Gerald)
France: Christophe (Eugene), Degy (Gaston), Dubourg (Fernand), Galler (George), Lacolle (Roger), Volland (Henri)
Italy: Vertemati (Luigi), Martinet (Charles), Martinet (Jean), Corini (Pierre), Bai (Giovanni), Clivelli (Angelo)
Luxembourg: Frantz (Nicolas), Engel (J.P.), Krier (Charles), Wolff (Michel), Basqui (Joseph), Martin (Joseph)
Switzerland: Eichenberger (Othmar), Blatmann (Albert), Krauss (Louis), Perriere (Charles), Seydoux (Ferréol), Collé (Henri)
The Critérium International de Cross Country Cyclo-Pedéstre created by l'Auto and organized jointly by l'Auto and the U.V.F., will be held over the following route of 20.2 km.
The start will be at precisely 3 p.m. at the town hall of Suresnes. Climb the grand boulevard which leads to the fort of Mont-Valérian and before the fort turn left on the strategic boulevard, cross the Rueil road over the steep path of the tile factory, take the first track on the right which skirts the racetrack and continue straight while following the barrier of the hippodrome until the Saint-Cloud to Rueil road, turn right on this, circumventing the racecourse, follow this road to the Buzenval monument, which is 200 meters on the left, take the track which leads directly to the monument (the first control).
From this point, the track will be marked with papers.
Go around the wall of the Buzenval school property, and, arriving at the top of Garches, enter the Saint-Cueufa woods, along the fence of the sheep pasture.
Continue through the Saint-Cueufa woods until the Celle-Saint-Cloud (the second control).
The track will then return directly to the edge of the Saint-Cueufa lake and steeply climb, to the wall of the Buzenval school property (the third control).
Turn left along the wall to drop down 300 meters into the Trou-du-Diable, cross the river issuing from the Saint-Cueufa pond, and towards Malmaison. The track will then follow the valley to the first house in Malmaison (the fourth control).
Go back up again to the right to enter Rueil via the Rueil - Saint-Cloud road, continue to the right until the porte du Long-Boyau, where one will find the wall of the Buzenval property; turn left and follow the aforementioned wall keeping it on your right, until the place Saint-Nicholas, in Buzenval (the fifth control).
Turn right and 50 meters further make a right angle turn to the left.
At this point the course markings end.
Continue straight along the Rueil - Saint-Cloud road, heading towards the latter city, passing in front of the Buzenval monument.
Return to Mont-Valérian by the same route as the outward journey.
The finish line will be on the strategic boulevard, 100 meters before the turn on to the boulevard climbed at the start.
In addition to the five fixed controls indicated above there will be four surprise controls and no voluntary or involuntary error will be permitted.
The competitors will be provided with numbers which they will have to wear in the back below their belt and on their left. Each nation will be identified by color, as follows:
Belgium: yellow numbers;
France: tricolour numbers;
Italy: green numbers;
Luxembourg: blue numbers;
Switzerland: red numbers.
At controls 1-5, the numbers of the competitors will be noted by officials installed for this purpose.
To ensure passage through the Trou-du-Diable, two controllers provided with white flags are appointed, and the competitors will have to exit the Trou-du-Diable between the two flags, which will be placed 4 meters apart. Any competitor not conforming to this regulation will be disqualified.
Changing bicycles is completely prohibited and to put French and foreign competitors on equal footing, the machines will be marked at the start and marks will be checked at the finish. Marking will be apparent, in a manner such that the officials can check racers at each control to make sure they are on the same bicycle they started with.. Any infringement of this rule will result in disqualification.
Photo from Le Miroir Des Sports, 03 Feb 1926.
Looks pretty nasty, don't it? Then you realize that the photo on the left is just the top section of the runup pictured on the right, where the riders just kind of disappear into the corner of the image, as if they've just been eaten up by this epic monster of a climb. Oh, did we mention that it's a climb out of a... sand quarry? No? Ouch. As the caption for these images read, this is certainly not child's play.
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