This is an engrossing pictorial journey through, as the title Cyclo Cross 2014/2015 suggests, last year's cyclo-cross season. The author, Balint Hamvas, and his team of contributors capture the emotion, the atmosphere, the agony and the ecstasy of the riders and fans alike as you're taken through the big races. If you enjoy 'cross or are curious as to what all the fuss is about, then this is a great coffee table addition to your cycling book collection.
Writing a book must take a tremendous effort in itself, but having to travel to separate events over numerous weekends to gather your material must really take its toll. Then there's compiling the material, and trying to sell it – it's certainly not for the faint-hearted. Not surprisingly, this edition was close to not happening at all. The difficulties of many weekends travelling across to the Continent and further afield, then pulling it all together, had left Balint with little enthusiasm for another season (it's not the first book he's published).
A chance comment and the introduction of a UK round of the World Cup changed things, though, and with enthusiasm renewed, Balint got stuck in. Responding to feedback from his readers, he changed the format of the book, took on a new designer and eventually produced another terrific tome.
It isn't all about the races and riders. There is plenty of background information, from the rider's earnings, to the venues outside of race time, the volunteers and, of course, the fans, that add to the reading experience.
The change of format for the 2014/15 edition is in the layout. Rather than cover each race in a chapter, the different series of races have been grouped to capture the essence of each one – the World Cup, the BPost Bank Trofee, the World Championships and the Superprestige. The results also add to your understanding of how each series unfolded, with the overall standings listed at the end.
If you want a blow-by-blow account you'll be disappointed. Balint is a freelance photographer who has been following cyclo-cross for many years. What he does very well is look at the emotion and effort required to race at the highest level. His images capture this in abundance, as well as the testing conditions of some of these races. Mud and rain are common features of 'cross racing, as is sand and sometimes snow; there's never a dull moment and it is occasionally brutal.
Those of you who went to Milton Keynes to witness the first round of the World Cup to be held in the UK will have some idea of the enthusiasm the crowds and volunteers bring to each and every race. Not on the level that the Dutch and Belgians bring to the sport, but they've had a lot of practice. These often-raucous races are brought to life in the book.
This isn't just about the pictures, though. There are insightful commentaries from Balint's team of contributors, giving you a real taste of the race series. You don't spend this long following a sport without getting to know people, and Balint has used his connections to provide snippets of race life from key insiders who offer a real look at how tough this sport is.
It is clear this is a labour of love, and the effort and sacrifice involved are huge, emphasised by the lengthy list of people who have contributed, helped or been there for Balint during the compilation and production of this book. The only question I did raise with him was the lack of accreditation to list which rider is shown in the images – the simple explanation was the work involved in doing so. Given how much has already gone into producing this work you can forgive Balint for stopping short at this point.
I have to confess to being a roadie through and through who dabbles in some of the other disciplines, but cyclo-cross has largely passed me by. A dark and dirty strand of cycling. Until now. I'm happy to admit to my conversion.
Whether you're into 'cross or not, this book offers an engaging and insightful look into this discipline of cycling
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Make and model: Cyclephotos Cyclo Cross 2014/2015, by Balint Hamvas
Size tested: N/A
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This is an engrossing pictorial journey through the 2014/15 cyclo-cross season. The author, Balint Hamvas, and his team of contributors take you through the big races, capturing the emotion, the atmosphere, the agony and the ecstasy of the riders and fans alike.
This is a well-crafted publication and it is obvious that those involved have given a lot of time and effort to produce this book.
This isn't cheap for a book, but then this isn't an ordinary book. There is so much offered here, the images, the commentary and insight all laid out in an easy to follow format that depicts 'cross in all its mud, sweat and tears.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For avid cyclo-cross fans through to curious passers by, the 2014/15 photo album delivers plenty. This is clearly the work of an enthusiast who has given time – and a lot of it – to produce this tome.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The insight, the emotion and physical effort captured at its most poignant. It is just like having your own personal guide directing you through the season.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The only question I did raise with the author was the lack of accreditation to list which rider is shown in the images. The simple explanation was the work involved in doing so. Given how much has already gone into producing this work you can forgive Balint for stopping short at this point.
Did you enjoy using the product? This book has opened my eyes to a part of the sport I have never given more than a passing glance before.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
This isn't just about the pictures, there are commentaries from Balint's team of contributors giving you succinct insight to the race series. You don't spend this long following a sport without getting to know people, and Balint has used this connection to provide snippets of race life from key insiders that offer a real look at how tough this sport is.
I have to confess to being a roadie through and through who dabbles in some of the other disciplines but cyclo-cross has largely passed me by. A dark and dirty strand of cycling. But I'm happy to admit to my conversion. The introduction of the results add to the understanding of how each series unfolded with the overall standings listed at the end. It is clear this is a labour of love and the effort and sacrifice involved are huge, emphasised by the lengthy list of people who have contributed, helped or been there for Balint during the compilation and production of this book.
About the tester
Age: 45 Height: 178cm Weight: 80kg
I usually ride: Currently riding a Pinnacle Evaporite Three My best bike is: As above
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, sportives, mountain biking, and looking to dip my toe in the world of TT