Cyclocross doesn't have a big following here in Australia but it's pretty big in Europe and North America. For those unfamiliar with the sport, you can think of it as riding a fortified road bike in the dirt. There are also obstacles on the course and sections that require portage (forced running sections). 'Cross season takes place mostly in winter when there's plenty of mud, ice and snow.
'Cross all started early in the 20th century in France. Then, it was sometimes known as steeple chase, as riders would race from one village to the next, with the steeple being the only visible sign of their destination. Riders took the quickest route, which usually involved racing through fields, over fences and down lanes.
Since races took place during the winter, portage was introduced as a way to help the cyclists keep warm all over.
The sport began to become popular in various European countries outside of France in 1910 after that year's Tour winner, Octave Lapize, attributed his victory to the training that 'cross had afforded him.
Check out this video filmed in England from half a century ago. Interesting footage of some tough customers...if the accent's anything to go by, I'd guess miners.
Thanks to Treadlie Magazine for bringing this film to my attention.