COLUMN: Simon Says

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Bonding With Cyclocross


I’ve become used to Jeff from dropping me an email every few weeks enquiring as to my willingness to scribble something topical for the next issue. He tends to check I’m still breathing and interested. I then confirm and ask him for subject matter to save me precious thinking time, then 24hrs before the deadline he sends a reminder once an hour until he gets something.
No change then this week until I asked for a subject he’d like me to write about.  “How about an attempt at a James Bond theme? Or maybe something about gravel racing…”
Wait, what? Bond and cyclocross? Now some links are tenuous, but I’ve never seen Daniel Craig on a Ridley chase a baddie who is seriously regretting poor tread choice. But as I pretty much refuse to consider gravel racing as a ‘thing’, I was left with little choice.
Luckily I was born in the year of the first Bond film, so a lifetime of Christmas repeats while resting between the festive races has left me somewhat an expert on both all things Bond and ’cross – so prepare to be wowed.
Bond’s creator Ian Fleming wrote his first book, Casino Royale, in February 1952 just as Roger Rondeaux was winning the third ever Cyclocross Worlds in Geneva. Sadly, Fleming didn’t tip a nod to the victory with any French references, preferring instead to go more Italian with the final action set in Venice (tenuous link: where I once did a site visit for a potential World Cup – it didn’t happen) and Lake Como, suggesting he was perhaps more of a late-season road Classics fan.
But which great ’cross racers equate to the seven Bonds we have seen on screen?

Sean Connery (1962 – 1967) = Renato Longo

Longo, just like Connery, is one of the greats: in the six years that Connery played the first Bond, Longo won Worlds four times and finished second once! Italian, tall, suave, he could have played Bond himself if it ever needed an Italian – and Pussy Galore would’ve loved him.

George Lazenby (1969) = Rolf Wolfshohl

Although Eric De Vlaeminck won in ’69, I’m going with German Wolfshohl as the Lazenby of ’cross. Although he won an amazing 10 medals in 13 years of Worlds he isn’t really that well known or remembered, somewhat in the shade of the more charismatic Longo and De Vlaeminck during the same era.

Roger Moore (1973 – 1985) = Eric De Vlaeminck

The longest serving Bond is definitely the longest serving World Champ – seven-time winner King Eric. He may have won his last title the year Moore started his run as Bond, but they will both be remembered for longevity and as icons in their field.

Timothy Dalton (1987 – 1989) = Adri van der Poel

Dalton was Bond during a period of flux in cyclocross; the reigns of Zweifel and Liboton were over, and nobody dominated in the late 80s, but as a silver medalist twice under Dalton’s term as Bond, VDP was always there or thereabouts, and he’s the one you always forget in the pub quiz.

Pierce Brosnan (1995 – 2002) = Mario de Clercq

Dark, moody, brooding, maybe smiles in private, but has never been seen in public, three-time winner Mario given a good shave and a decent suit would pass as Brosnan in a dark room.

Daniel Craig (2006 – 2015) = Sven Nys

They’re both shorter than you think, both get the job done and do it with style. And they both definitely get better and more popular with age. Both look like they are done during the winter of 2015/2016 too, leaving the door open for a new Bond and a new cyclocross superstar.

Idris Elba (Maybe 2016 – 2022?) = Wout Van Aert

Yeah, whatever. It’s still way more interesting than anything I could have written about gravel racing!