December’s Best Bike Races

Not everyone is hanging up their race bikes and breaking out the turbo trainers and winter bikes. There are still some hardy pros giving it their all in December. Belgian cyclocross, British track racing, ancient Australian classics and even a bit of oddball cycle-ball.

Belgian Cyclocross Classics

December is all about Belgium. December sees a whole bunch of iconic C1 category Belgian cyclocross race happening.

Belgian ‘cross racing was something of a cult over here for a while but in recent years it has blossomed into something almost resembling a vaguely mainstream phenomenon.

flanders flag

What makes these races so special? Well, a big part of it is taking joy from misery. Gleeful celebration of hard conditions.

These muck-splattered winter-lit races are a counterpoint to the slick , distant and sunshiney pro road races that dominate for the rest of the year. Belgian ‘cross races are dank, murky and up-close. They feel more ‘real’ to a lot of cyclists.

Anyway, the best way of understanding their appeal to watch some the races. You can find live internet streams for pretty much all of the following events.

December 7th – Vlaamse Druivencross, Belgium

December 13th – Scheldecross Antwerpen, Belgium

December 20th – Nordvlees Van Gool Cyclocross Essen, Belgium

December 28th – Superprestige Diegem, Belgium

December 30th – Azencross, Belgium

117th Austral Wheel Race

December 20th – Melbourne, Australia

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, it’s summer and there’s a lot more bicycle racing going on. There’s loads of national-level road racing and mountain biking going on in Australasia but for us the most interesting event takes place indoors.

The Austral is a track cycling event that’s been going on since 1887 (not literally – that would be extremely tiring). It’s the oldest track cycling event in the world. Although the specific venue has changed over the years, the Austral has always taken place in Melbourne somewhere.

the 1968 austral track race

Due to Australia being rather a long way away the Austral doesn’t get much in the way of international competitors. It’s a bit of an Oz-fest. But let’s not forget that Australia is one of the best track racing nations in the world. The Austral is an elite level event.

In the Austral riders are given a handicap according to how they fair over a series of heats. It’s not unusual for riders handicapped by 100 metres of more to still end up winning the title.

Track Cycling World Cup

December 5th-7th – London, UK

Last month we had the Cyclocross World Cup visiting our shores, this month the world’s best velodromers are here. It’s great to see the UCI supporting the cause of international bike racing happening in Britain.

london world cup track cycling

The World Cup takes place over three days at the Lee Valley Velopark (yep, the the London 2012 venue). It features pretty much all of the different types of race format: keirin, individual sprint, team sprint, team pursuit, omnium.

Cycle-Ball World Cup

December 6th – Grosskochen, Germany

Also known as ‘radball’, cycle-ball is basically a form of football played on bicycles. The bikes are fixies with rather alarming-looking handlebars and extended-over-the-rear-wheel saddle extensions.

The ball is filled with horse hair. You’re allowed to control the ball using only the bike (the goalie can use his hands too if he wants too). You’re not allowed to put a foot down.

Although it looks like a modern gimmick, cycle-ball actually dates all the back to at least 1888 when the first unofficial World Champs were put on in Germany. Official World Champs began in 1930.

cycle ball

It’s big in the Czech Republic. Cycle-ball legends the Pospíšil brothers were from (the then) Czechoslovakia and won the world champs a total of twenty times between 1965 and 1988.

Well, that’s another new bike you can put on your N+1 list!

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