Exclusive video from our May issue style shoot of die-hard cyclocross riders.
Die-hard cyclocross riders showcase technical clothing designed to shrug off dirt, sweat, and rain.
Text by TAYLOR ANTRIM, Photographs by DYLAN COULTER, Fashion by PATTI O’BRIEN
The easiest way to describe cyclocross racing is to call it a two-wheeled steeplechase staged across various terrains, dramatic inclines, and obstacles that can be negotiated only by shouldering the bike and sprinting. But as these six men will tell you, that’s missing the point. It’s WWI in bike form — a grueling battle fought in mud-filled trenches and fueled by a cocktail of pain, adrenaline, and aching willpower. Here, a mix of the best American pros and near-pro amateurs tell their war stories while decked out in combat-ready activewear: jerseys that breathe, gloves that keep hands warm in bone-biting cold, and jackets that shed splatters.
Click on any image to begin the slideshow, or check out photographer Dylan Coulter’s behind-the-scenes video from the photo shoot by clicking here.
1. TIM JOHNSON, 32
The Michael Jordan of U.S. cyclocross has six national titles and finished as the top American in this year’s World Championships in the Czech Republic, taking 14th place overall.
“’Cross in the U.S. used to be a joke, and now all the Europeans want to come and see what it’s like here. Each part of the U.S. has its own style, which is what makes us so appealing to them. In New England people really get into the racing side of cyclocross. In Portland guys enjoy the uniqueness of the sport — meaning they’ll race you to death, but they might do it in a dress.”
STYLE CREDITS: Johnson wears a windbreaker by LOUIS VUITTON, $1,930; jersey, $195, and bib shorts, $205, both by RAPHA; gloves by SUGOI, $35; socks by PEARL IZUMI, $11.
2. NICK BENNETTE, 27 (left)
A Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Princeton, the ex–collegiate road racer has risen from a dabbler in cyclocross to a championship contender at the highest amateur level.
“In cyclocross you rev yourself up and hit your threshold for the duration of the race, but what’s really brutal are those moments when you have to accelerate, and you’re feathering over your body’s redline. You get that taste of battery acid in your mouth. That’s where people fall apart. You have to respect ’cross — it’s not for the faint of heart.”
JEREMY POWERS, 26 (right)
According to teammate Tim Johnson, this pro is a “total nutjob” known for jumping out of bushes to scare pals on practice rides. On the course he’s a real monster, with nine of the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team’s 22 wins in 2009.
“As a junior racer, I had really bad ADD, so the short, bursty effort of cyclocross suited my style. Back then cyclocross was the redheaded stepchild of cycling — really underground. It was a hard man’s sport, always cold and shitty out, plenty of mud. Actually, it’s still that way.”
STYLE CREDITS: Bennette, far left, wears a jacket, $370, and tights, $230, both by ASSOS; gloves by SUGOI, $35; socks by SMARTWOOL, $16; sunglasses by TIFOSI OPTICS. Powers, near left, wears a vest by STONE ISLAND SHADOW, $560; jersey by LOUIS GARNEAU, $85; shorts by SMARTWOOL, $125; hat by RAPHA, $50; arm warmers by ASSOS, $48; gloves by SUGOI, $55; socks by PEARL IZUMI, $10.
3. JAMIE DRISCOLL, 23
One of the sport’s rising pros, he grabbed the spotlight with a win against a stacked field at last year’s CrossVegas, the country’s largest cyclocross race.
“You crash a lot more often in cyclocross than you do in a road race, but it’s not high-stakes crashing — unless you eat it on the first corner after the start. That’s when you’re going into it at a full-on sprint. Riders lock handlebars, and chain reactions happen. You have to mentally prepare for it.”
STYLE CREDITS: Driscoll wears a jacket by CALVIN KLEIN COLLECTION, price upon request; jersey by SUGOI, $100; tights by UNDER ARMOUR, $60; gloves by ASSOS, $66; socks by RAPHA, $20.
4. KYLE PEPPO, 29 (left)
Even though 2009 marked his first full season in ’cross, the Wall Street risk analyst and road racer managed to notch four third-place finishes in amateur events.
“I started doing cyclocross to work on skills in the road racing off-season; then I realized it’s probably one of the more fun things you can do on a bike. I learn technique by watching the pros on the course. I’ll remember taking some turn and really struggling, and those guys have this intuition: They know how to keep their bikes up.”
CORT CRAMER, 32 (right)
After suffering a spate of stress fractures, the former marathon runner needed a new sport. Four years ago he landed in cyclocross, and since then he has become a top amateur as well as a coach.
“This year it poured the day before and the day of the race in New Gloucester, Maine. Mud was six to eight inches deep. In that stuff your cadence goes down to 60 or 65 rpm, making it a test of power. The hardest feature? A tight 180-degree turn. Those are incredibly difficult, and if you’re not at the front, forget it — you’re looking at a 30-second gap to the leaders.”
STYLE CREDITS: Peppo, far left, wears a jacket by NEW BALANCE, $100; jersey by SUGOI, $130; T-shirt by NIKE SPORTSWEAR, $85; tights by NEW BALANCE, $65; gloves by DAKINE, $30; booties by SUGOI, $60. Cramer, near left, wears a vest by NIKE SPORTSWEAR, $110; jersey, $130, shorts, $130, and cap, $28, all by SUGOI; arm warmers by ASSOS, $48; gloves by LOUIS GARNEAU, $35; knee warmers by SMARTWOOL, $25; socks by RAPHA, $20; sunglasses by RUDY PROJECT.
STYLE CREDITS (from left): Kyle Peppo wears a jacket by RAPHA, $375; bib shorts by LOUIS GARNEAU, $150; sunglasses by OAKLEY, $125; gloves by DAKINE, $30; socks by DEFEET, $11. Jamey Driscoll wears a jacket by ZEGNA SPORT, $395; bib shorts by SUGOI, $140; knee warmers by RAPHA, $65; sunglasses by SMITH OPTICS. Nick Bennette wears a jacket by EA7 EMPORIO ARMANI, $745; bib knickers by GORE BIKE WEAR, $110; sunglasses by OAKLEY, $250. Jeremy Powers wears a jacket by LUIGI BIANCHI MANTOVA, $595; tights by PEARL IZUMI, $120; sunglasses by OAKLEY. Tim Johnson wears a jacket by RALPH LAUREN BLACK LABEL, $695; bib shorts by CANNONDALE, $138; knee warmers by PEARL IZUMI, $35; gloves by DAKINE, $35; socks by CANNONDALE, $12; sunglasses by OAKLEY.
This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Men’s Journal.