After the hectic months of the cyclocross season I took some time off, put down my camera and returned to do things normal human beings normally do, like going out on a Friday evening or having a lie-in on Saturday morning. I quite enjoyed this quiet time but then the opportunity came to come to the Czech Republic to cover the third round of the Rocky Roads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
I flew to Budapest, spent some time with my family and then jumped in the car with a friend and spent the weekend in the beautiful Czech countryside. The drive from when we left the motorway to Nove Mesto na Morave was nothing less than spectacular and after a quick recce in the forest revealed that the course was really great, too. Lung-bursting climbs alternated with neck-breaking descents and this isn’t an exaggeration: crazy drop-offs followed buy long and very steep ascents.
Both the women’s and the men’s race was really exciting, the races were open right till the end. In both races, Czech riders fought really hard to win on home soil but they had to settle for podium places: Katerina Nash finished third while Jaroslav Kulhavy finished second in front of a crazy home crowd.
Because the spectators were amazing. While you see at least 20k people at any cyclo-cross race during the season in Belgium, they only cheer the top 20 of any given race, the rest get some moderate support at best. The Czech supporters however, were shouting, clapping and cheering for everyone: the local riders got extra love but each and every rider got ample attention – the atmosphere was truly amazing.
Check out the photos below to see some great jumps and riders tackling tricky sections.
Emily Batty was caught with a less-than-complimentary facial expression.
Czech rider Katerina Nash attacked from the get-go. She was part of the leading group all the way through the race but eventually faded back and finished at third place.
Tracy Moseley held a talk about her life just a week ago in London and she talked extensively about her new career that included her new-found respect to xc riders. Though she was tackling descents with an impressive confidence, she couldn't finish the race was called out with only a lap to go. Still, really good effort.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot flies through the super-rocky 'Rock'n'roll' section
Crosser and Czech rider Pavla Havlikova, right after finishing
An avid Gunn Rita Dahle supporter
The Czech national flag face painting was very popular
The elite men shot off at a blistering pace with Ralph Naf grabbing the holeshot.
The most spectacular part of the course was the 'BMX' section - most riders performed great jumps. First is Manual Fumic - note his unique baggy shorts, never seen anything like that before at a cross country race!
Sam Schultz and his ballsy tailwhip
Cyclo-cross legend Sven Nys opted for the safe-ish option.
The unknown rider did one for the cameras
In an attempt to qualify for the Olympics, Kevin Pauwels decided to race at Nove Mesto. Given this was his first MTB race of the year, he started far behind the favourites and it took him quite some time to get ahead. Starting from 112th place he finished 57th, so there still is some chance to qualify for the Olympics.
After an emphatic win just weeks ago at Houffalize, Julien Absalon was struggling and abandoned the race in lap four
Jaroslav Kulhavy roder hard in front of a home crowd
Sven Nys climbs out of the saddle of an unbranded BMC 29er
There was an extra announcer at the 'Rock'n'roll' section to 'introduce' oncoming riders who were welcomed with a huge cheer while tackling the massive rocks
I didn't know first what was odd about the Kazakh Kirill Kazantsev's bike but after studying the bike for a couple of minutes I spotted the V-brakes on the bike!
After a podium place at Houffalize, Marco Aurelio Fontana finished fourth today
The rock garden looked really gnarly and it attracted all the blood-thirsty photogs.
Tom Meeusen can always deliver a 'very dedicated' face!
Nino Schurter won the race six seconds ahead of Jaroslav Kulhavy
He did his best but couldn't repeat his win from last year. The crowd went still crazy when he crossed the line
Jose Antonio Hermida Ramos celebrates Ralph Naf's 5th place
Nys, the 'cross legend gets quite a bit of attention from the Belgian media even though the race was quite far away from home
Kulhavy and the Spesh team on the podium