'Cross. Oh, how I love to hate 'cross. The pain, the brevity, warming up on lap four of six before bonking on lap five. Feet and hands that remain icy numb even when the core could be used to cook bacon. Taste of blood at the back of my throat, the glimpse of pink bar tape out of the corner of my eye on that turn which tells me whether I'm gaining, losing, gaining again. Wry laughs on the finish line, familiar hacking cough, hands cramping round the steering wheel on the way home.
Yup, hate it.
I do like northern 'cross better than southern 'cross, though. Southern 'cross is all terribly polite. New white socks for every race. Friendly, even when in the throes of agony. "Excuse me, do you mind if I overtake/undertake/vomit on your rear wheel? Lovely weather we're having. Did you see the latest Rouleur yet? Beautiful layouts. Some rather nice tubs. Anyway. Lovely chatting to you but I must be going. Keep pedaling, nearly there!".
Northern 'cross is different. Harder. Black socks are not uncommon. I have been sworn at, pushed off, elbowed, shoved. Asking around reveals this to be normal, though apparently this year has been worse than any preceding it. Up here I have had a great deal of fun with the sort of riders, all male, who wish they were top ten but have never quite managed to break top fifteen, and aren't used to girls with well-honed elbows who can and do hold their line when they have a legitimate right to it. Who are quite happy to return the verbal abuse they receive, doubled. And who can ride muddy, off-camber singletrack fast enough to keep returning that abuse right into the offending ear until the next flat field section is reached and power overcomes skill once again.