along with several folks i know of, i too figured adding cyclocross to the winter olympics would be a very good idea. in fact, i was brought to query why cyclocross couldn't have been yet one more cycling discipline in the recently completed glasgow commonwealth games. though 'cross season generally doesn't commence until the more autumnal months, i can't see any real reason why an exception couldn't be made once every four years to hold a race during the summer months (in the case of the commonwealth games) and the somewhat colder months if we're still considering the winter olympics.
i am, in this case, a great believer in events that offer up a convincing winner, unlike the oddity that is ice-dancing. i've no earthly idea why that is considered a sport, and ultimately, the winner of the event is the result of subjective judging, something that i figure ought to disqaulify it on those grounds alone. however, rumour has it that the ioc are considering a relaxation of the rule that accepts only events and activities relying on snow and/or ice, thus perhaps paving the way for cyclocross at some time in the foreseeable future.
but stefan wyman disagrees, and in the light of a somewhat convincing argument, maybe he's right. he certainly knows a lot more about cyclocross than most of us.
his argument against a 'cross gold medal on offer every four years is based on "...in its real home of Belgium, less than 20 men compete in the professional National Championships. Is that really where we stand after so many years of the sport gaining huge television coverage? [...] So would Olympic Cross simply provide another televised set of racing in Belgium, where statistics show over 60% of the viewing population already watch the World Championships. Its popularity in Belgium is basically at a maximum."
cyclocross remains a very small niche sport in the uk, france, italy and many other european countries. north america is a notable exception, with a rather fabulous 'cross scene, but hardly one that would challenge the netherlands or belgium for gold and silver medals. therefore one does have to wonder whether a scoot in the mud every four years would make much difference overall.
you would, of course, be right to query what on earth this has to do with a book ostensibly offering a pictorial record of the 2013/14 european cyclocross season. and the answer is that it forms the basis of a short but pertinent essay by the aforementioned stefan wyman on page 210. in fact, the wymans quite rightly feature large in balint hamvas' excellent book by way of an accompanying photo essay following the oft victorious helen wyman, proving that hamvas has more than one string to his bow.
i'm no photographer. most of the imagery that emanates from my metallic blue, lumix compact digital is captured via the timer. you would be far less impressed if you were to see all the images i discard. the same may well be the case for balint, but i tend to think not. what i've not managed to figure out, while perusing the huge number of 'cross images in this photobook, is where on earth the chap manages to position himself while clicking the shutter?
it is a conceit of both film and tv that there ought not to appear to be any camera present. we are expected to believe that we are but flies on the wall, observing that which is portrayed before us, and in the majority of cases that's exactly how we proceed. balint hamvas possesses those selfsame skills (as witnessed in that recent video interview with richard mitchelson), applying them well to his cyclocross imagery. i was rarely, if ever, conscious that somewhere along the line, a camera lens had been involved. in several cases it is perfectly believable that hamvas was riding behind the subjects captured by his lens.
in common with his keen sense of movement and perspective, the man is a master of his art. and his art is now his daily work, as stated in his introduction "...after having been lamenting over it for the last ten years, I have finally left the world of day jobs behind and become a freelance photographer." i do not doubt that he has benefited personally from this career upheaval, but in truth, we are the ones to be truly thankful.
with the 2014/15 cyclocross season almost upon us, the publication of this review of the previous season is most timeous, reminding us of last year's gloop, while creating demand for this year's to hurry up and get started. balint's annual photobooks are every bit as much a part of the sport of cyclocross as a new set of tyres. it makes little difference whether you are a participant with a number on your back, or more like yours truly and simply besotted with falling off in the undergrowth every second saturday.
sunday 24 august 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................