Book Review: Rainbows in the mud

I’m a sucker for books. My collection has now infested every single room in the house except the bathroom which in my mind is no place for a book to live, though many do accompany me into that room when I go for a long soak in the tub. As I’ve probably mentioned before in this blog, the thought of being without reading material actually horrifies me and I’ve been known to panic in airports when I’m unable to find anything suitable before a flight. When I get ‘into’ things, I really get into them – I’m quite committed or I suppose, ‘extreme’ like that.

Reading is probably as big a constant as cycling in my life and I’m nearly (but not quite) as passionate about it as I am about cats. I’m also fanatical about many genres of cycling, a bit of a nerd and an avid consumer of information be it in magazines or newspapers, online or in books. When a new bike related tome appears, I have to have it.



Before Paul Maunder’s book Rainbows In The Mud I hadn’t read any books on Cyclocross and a quick look at what else is on offer revealed that there’s little written about this particular strand of cycling. I was particularly keen to get stuck into the book given that it’s currently cross season and I myself have been racing; it seemed like the ideal read for a night with the feet up recovering from a day in the mud.

For those of you unfamiliar with cyclocross, the races make use of multiple surfaces such as mud, grass, sand and gravel but are ridden on bicycles closer in design to road bikes than mountain bikes. Ridden over varying numbers of laps, racers complete multiple laps of a circuit that usually involves obstacles such as barriers, stairs and slippery banks.

Like myself, the author has a history of racing cyclocross and his personal story is woven into an general exploration of cyclocross from its beginnings to the modern day, starting with his recollection of winning his very first race and later, the time he fell out of love with it.

Travelling to cross’s heartland of Belgium, Maunder gets up close and personal, immersing himself in the heady atmosphere by hanging out with the superfans, eating frites and drinking beer. Investigating  just why cyclocross is so wildly popular in Flanders, we discover more about this Belgian Sunday ritual, a sport that’s almost as popular as football over there and is growing in popularity globally. His descriptions of the festival atmosphere give such a great idea of what it’s like to be there that I now really, really want to go and experience it for myself.

Along with exploring the significant places in cyclocross whilst giving full background information on all the most important international races such as CrossVegas and Koksijde, Maunder zones in on several riders following Katie Compton and Gage Hecht amongst others as they take on the ’15/’16 season and we get real insight into the realities of racing cross at the highest level. Much is made of the difference between cross in America and here in Europe and the challenges athletes from rival nations face due to different approaches.


Photo: Jingle Cross

Whereas formerly, I’d been more interested in simply racing myself, knowing the stories of the riders, the venues and races has made me much more keen on spectating. Giving great insights into this mysterious world, Maunder really brings the sport alive and I found myself getting more and more excited about cross as the book went on.

Since reading the book, sadly I’ve not made it out to Flanders or to America. But I have been getting my fill via YouTube and enjoying the races so much more than before.

Buy now with my affiliate link: Rainbows in the Mud

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