Hang on a mo, there's that Kiwi cyclist

By Derek Cheng

An aversion to haircuts has helped to propel a NZ cyclist on the international race circuit.

Alex Revell's hirsute handlebar has won over fans. Photo / Supplied
Alex Revell's hirsute handlebar has won over fans. Photo / Supplied

It's big, hairy and not very aerodynamic, but Wellington cyclist Alex Revell's huge moustache has propelled him from humble beginnings to celebrity status on the European cyclocross circuit.

When the 27-year-old moved to Belgium last August to realise his dream of riding with the best of the cyclocross world, he expected a tough, lonely ride. But he quickly became a crowd favourite.

"Being from New Zealand is appealing to them, but having a big moustache made me stand out. At my first Grade A race, where the professionals ride, people were already cheering my name and yelling 'Go Moustache!'

"It was pretty funny."

Mr Revell, a recreational mountain and road biker, became hooked on cyclocross two years ago as it started to gain a foothold in New Zealand. He came second in the NZ National Championship race last year, and then moved to Flanders, Belgium, the home of cyclocross, for a taste of the professional circuit.

He was arriving at the races by train, with one bike and to no fanfare. But an article in the local newspaper sparked media interest, including from Belgium national television. Soon people started calling him De Snor, meaning The Moustache in Dutch.

His growing profile attracted the support of cycling team Los Pedalos, which is helping him cover the costs of competing by selling merchandise.

His fans are now not only screaming their support from the sidelines, but also showing up at races wearing T-shirts, jackets and beanies with a moustache logo.

He now has two race bikes, cycling clothes, spare wheels and a support crew when he turns up to race.

"I've been pretty lucky. I feel kind of bad for the riders ahead of me but outside the top three. They don't get any TV time or much support from the crowd.

"It's been very surreal."

Mr Revell said his year-old moustache has its roots in anti-establishment.

"I was in the Air Force band for eight years, so I started growing it when I left. I've never really enjoyed cutting hair, really. Anywhere."

He admits it's not the most helpful when he is cycling into the wind.

"But in cyclocross, trying not to crash is more important than whether your face has an extra cubic centimetre of hair. I'm happy to sacrifice a bit of aerodynamic efficiency for the benefits it's given me."

Does he think he would have found fame without his furry friend? "I don't think so, but how do you know? People like that I'm a New Zealander, and see I'm genuine about loving the sport.

"And for me it's about competing and giving your all, not winning, and people like that.

"I could shave it off now. I don't know what would happen, but I feel like I owe it quite a lot and it deserves a bit of respect. And people might turn against me if I shaved."

In November, Mr Revell achieved his season goal of completing a race (cyclocross riders are pulled from the race if they fall too far behind the leader). Now he wants to race for New Zealand at the World Championship race in Kentucky, US, next month. He's looking for funding at gofundme.com/1bp2t0.

He also wants to race in the NZ National Championship in August in Queenstown, and help lift the sport's profile here.

For now, he is enjoying being recognised. "It's been an amazing life experience. Ridiculous, hilarious, completely unpredictable."

What is cyclocross?

Bikers race laps for about an hour on a short course of differing terrain, often including pavement, dirt or sand trails, steep hills and other obstacles. Riders can dismount and carry their bikes over sections of the course. Those who fall more than 80 per cent behind the leader's first lap time are pulled from the race.

- NZ Herald

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