The Heusden-Zolder course is hard, very hard from the photographers’ point of view. It’s very streched out and it takes ages to get from one end to the other. I remembered the layout from two years ago and found it difficult again to be everywhere where I wanted to be.
That being said, I managed to cover most the spots that I wanted and I came away with a few shots that came out pretty well. That being said, there was one very annoying fuck-up, when I got a bit overexcited and my camera strap got in the way. It’s annoying as it would have been THE perfect photo and it’s also a super stupid mistake, but there’s not much I can do about it. I’m too embarrassed to add it to the post but if you want to check it, you can have a look at it here.
One race down, three more to go during the festive week, so stay tuned for more ‘cross action.
The U23 race wasn't part of the official program, so half of the field raced in that age group, while the other half decided to try themselves out with the elite men. Among those who decided to race with the other U23s, Wietse Bosmans was the fastest.
I wasn't sure where should I start the women's race. After a quick recce, I decided to start in the woody section of the course and while most of the riders came in a single file, I was lucky enough to catch Christine Majerus overtaking Maureen Bruno Roy right in front of me.
Maureen Bruno Roy and the cameras.
While the lead of Marianne Vos and Daphny Van Den Brand was never really threathened, Sanne Van Paassen and Pauline Ferrand Prevot worked together for a while. Van Paassen probably sat too on Ferrand Prevot's wheel, who gestured towards the Dutch to take her turn at the front.
Marianne Vos and Daphny Van Den Brand dominated the race from the start, the only question left was whether one or the other would win. Eventually, it was Vos how powered away from Van Den Brand, she managed to put a convenient, 30 sec gap between her and Van Den Brand.
Rapha-Focus rider Julie Krasniak runs up on the muddy hillside.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot is always ready to flash a lovely smile. Even after hard and miserably muddy race.
Living up to the expectations, Sven Nys, the then-leader of the World Cup overall rankings, tried to ride away from the field.
Zdenek Stybar is about to tackle one of the steepest descents of the course. Oh, and it was muddy, too.
As always, the Heusden-Zolder race attracted a massive crowd and the created an amazing atmosphere.
Kevin Pauwels keeps an eye of the chasing group.
I've been photographing cyclo-cross for a while now but it still amazes me how these guys power up on muddy and steep ascents. My jaw drops every single time.
Stybar seemed to regain some of his strength finally. As he added after the race, in the last couple of weeks, he hadn't managed to leave some energy in the tank for the end of the race but today was different and he felt good even in the last lap. Maybe he found out how to tackle the fatigue?
My favourite shot of the day.
With Nys crashing in the final corner, it all came down to a sprint between Stybar and Pauwels. Though Stybar was leading until the last couple of meters, Pauwels managed to pip Stybar once again. Stybar's frustration was clearly visible.
Lars Boom used well his better start position and while he was never really a contestant for the win, he finished 7th, only 48 seconds behind Pauwels.
Loud and happy Pauwels-fans.