Cyclocross is a huge test of endurance. It's usually cold, it's usually painful, and it's usually muddy as hell.
As we edge back into winter then, we thought it'd only be right to put together a pleasant gallery of some of our favourite pictures from the cyclocross universe.
It's basically just a load of cyclists either covered in mud, or about to be covered in mud... But that's why you're here, right?
The Full Facial
Look at that distant stare in this cyclist's eyes. He's been through a lot on his cyclocross expedition today, eaten some mud, kept his legs pumping and battled to the finish line.
Now he's waiting for the other victims to cross the line. Either that or he's just seen a man being mauled by a bear of course.
The best thing about this? All that mud will (might) do wonders for his skin...
Cyclocross doesn't let you feel good about yourself for free. You've got to earn that smile at the end of the race - that feeling that you've accomplished something pretty damn impressive by the time you cross the finish line.
Here, we have a wild cyclist, beady eyed in focus and sporting daring brown camouflage so his competitors won't see him coming. This guy is sneaky.
You Know When You've Been Tango'd
They say you know when you've been tango'd, and if that remains true, then this budding cyclist will be more than aware that he's been well and truly done.
This guy literally looks like a character you would see in a low budget sci-fi D-Movie, and looking at that ground, we can't help but feel like this would've been a nasty fall...
This fine chap is leading the lines, and under all those layers and layers and layers of mud, his head is in the game.
No amount of mud would stop this guy from going, but you can't help but feel that looking at the occasion and the riders, and considering the generally gloomy nature of this photograph, there a lot of chaps further back in the pack who might just be dreaming of home time.
We assume that this photograph was taken pretty early in the race, seconds before they hit their first proper patch of mud.
10 seconds earlier it would look like a regular old cycle through the countryside, 10 seconds later and it would look like they had just been dunked in the River Thames and left out to dry.
The yellow rider on the left here is particularly eye-catching. His face is showing just the kind of expression you'd expect after having a bucket of watery mud chucked directly in your face.
A screen grab it may be, but this effort captures wonderfully that 'oh f*?&!ck' moment that every racer has felt at one time or another.
Looking at the photo, this chap has probably ridden about half a lap and been wondering what all of the fuss is about. "I'm not that muddy yet," he thinks. "This isn't so bad."
Just you wait Mr. Mud-bound. Just you wait.
The deceptively deep puddle is a phenomenon that certainly isn't unique to cyclocross.
Road cyclists and mountain bikers can be regular victims of this mysterious plague when they're riding about, but it definitely seems to be the cyclocross lot that get the worst of it.
The picture above sees the beginning of the descent into the dark brown ocean, and we can only assume that he kept going until he was completely submerged, coming up minutes later panting for air.
They've got the colourful lycra on, so it looks like this lot were expecting a bit of glamour and dignity to come out of all this racing malarkey. How very comical.
The graft on Mr. Colourful's face here should tell you everything you need to know. He doesn't look like he's having the best time in the world anyway.
We're also fairly convinced that the guy in the blue may well be permanently stuck. His bike would probably still be glued to that track if you went over now.
The Cyclocross Face
This picture is probably the reason you clicked on this article to start with.
This is a situation that is all too familiar for the tried and tested cyclocross star. There is one golden rule that this particular cyclist has chosen to ignore however - always keep your mouth closed when you're going down.
"What did you have for lunch mate?" his friend later asked him. "About three litres of mud," he begrudgingly replied.
Let's take the focus off the rider for a minute and have a look at what this sport can do to a bike.
Under all that mud and dirt, there's a perfectly good ride there, but arguably, the rig looks even more beautiful here than it would do was it just out the box.
It was made for this, and it's done it's job well. Bikes aren't meant to be clean.
Scholars debate that this wonderful photograph is the best ever taken.
The photo says it all about the sport. Go hard, get muddy, do everything you're expected to do, and keep a smile on your face throughout.
That point combined with the cheeky smile and the mud beard makes this battered cyclist an inspiration to us all!
The Tan Line
This was either taken in the 80s, 90s, or at an edgy deep house party in Leeds last weekend. You can tell from the retro adidas gear.
That's not what sets this particular piece apart from the others though. It's all about that muddy tan line from the helmet.
Perfectly clean forehead. Perfectly muddy in all other respects. Good effort solider. Good effort.
This one really just makes us laugh. The dude was caught in the worst position possible here - halfway through a face plant in the mud.
When he set off and saw the photographers all around him, he probably thought "awesome, I might get some sweet profile pictures out of this". Or, alternatively, you might get an incriminating fail photo that your mates will laugh at until the end of time.
The Mud Love
At the end of the day, in a cyclocross race you're bound to work hard, you're bound to get muddy, and above all else, you're bound to enjoy yourself.
This man captures all of the above beautifully. He's taken a tumble on a wet and wild ride, and he's ready to get back up and ride to the finish. Once he's tried and failed to stand up a couple times of course...