Cyclocross is no longer cycling's hidden gem. Its rapid growth in the USA and UK means this intense and dramatic sport is exploding into the mainstream. With a season running from September to February, cyclocross is cycling's only purely winter discipline, demanding a combination of athleticism, supreme technical skill and ruthless tactics for the muddy conditions.
In the sport's heartland of Belgium, major races attract crowds of thousands and have a carnival atmosphere fuelled by heavy drinking, ringing cowbells and pumping airhorns. Many top riders have enthusiastic fan-clubs and are national celebrities - one even had his own reality TV show. On race day, Belgian and Dutch television coverage is akin to a major football match in the UK, stretching for hours with pre-race interviews, pundits and behind-the-scenes films.
In Rainbows in the Mud, Paul Maunder spends a season soaking up the sport's rich culture and history, and mixing with the obsessive fans, celebrity riders, and old-fashioned patriarchs of the sport. Following the riders - novices, veterans, American, British - as they slog their way through the season, he captures the spirit of this flamboyant cult sport, and paints a picture so vibrant you can almost feel the mud under your feet and taste the beer, mulled wine and frites.