There’s something you see in almost every elite ‘cross race now—but that wasn’t always the case. What is it? Hopping barriers.
Initially, jumping barriers was not a common practice in cyclocross. In fact, no one did it.
In 1989, Swiss rider Pascal Richard and Dutchman Adri van der Poel (father of MvdP) were the expected favorites for the world championships, and Belgian Danny De Bie wasn’t initially considered a contender for the coveted rainbow jersey.
He was still a top ‘crosser—the S.E.F.B rider had secured silver in ’87—but winning the worlds seemed like a tall order against the likes of Richard and van der Poel.
De Bie had actually attempted barrier hopping in the weeks before at the some of the Super Prestige races. In the 1988-1989 season, he won one of the events, as well as securing a few podium finishes. However, his star was about to rise when he went to the world championships in Pontchâteau, France.
The strategic placement of the barriers on the course created an opportunity for him to utilize his bunny hopping prowess as a significant advantage. One was positioned after a sharp corner, and another was at the top of a hill. Being able to jump the first plank meant he could ride up a short, steep hill, whereas everyone else had to run it.
“I immediately realized that the course was made for me. The weather was good, everything was dry, it was a quick round and, above all, there were barriers. Those planks had only one big reason: to make the course more difficult. All riders would be there on foot,” he explained to Het Nieuwsblad. “That’s how it was back then. If you saw barriers, you jumped off the bike. As a cyclocross rider, you almost didn’t know any better. Everyone was running.”
Everyone except De Bie.
“I immediately saw that I could jump over it with my bike. That was part of it from an early age. I had always jumped over canals, smashed a lot of bicycles too, but I had learned a lot while playing,” he said. “All day I jumped over those beams.” (It should be noted that back then, barriers were even higher than now–at 45 cm!
De Bie capitalized on this by consistently jumping them each lap, ultimately securing an unexpected and thrilling victory. Over the years, you’d see more and more riders honing this skill, knowing that without it, they might lose a second or two, along with the momentum of staying on their bikes.
Check out the Belgian taking the biggest victory of his life, jumping…