When I do the editing for the race reports, I always use a rule of thumb: always narrow it down to 25 images. No matter what. Most of the time it’s hard, sometimes it feels like the right number and every now and again I can barely publish 15 ok-ish photos.
Today, I’ll break that rule. Maybe it was a long day, maybe I tried a lot of different spots, maybe the first really muddy race put me in a good mood, I don’t know. But I couldn’t really go below 50 photos, not without omitting a few good shots. Then again, I might be biased, so leave a comment if you think it’s too much and there are too many filler images.
It snowed on Saturday and though it was gone by the end of the day, it offered a great backdrop for the morning races. The juniors’ race was more eventful than usual, though Mathieu van der Poel pulled away right after the start. However, Quentin Hermans managed to close the gap and he was able to challenge van der Poel for the next few laps. His great effort didn’t last long and van der Poel has won yet another race.
There was a big shake-up at U23s. Mike Teunissen, the strongest rider this season struggled while Wietse Bosmans finally has found his form and rode to his first major win of the season. After last week’s inspired ride by American Zach McDonald, it seemed in the first two laps that he can repeat the same great performance, but after a great start he faded away.
On the women’s front, it was a great day for the Brits. It looked like yet another tour de force by Sanne van Paassen, especially that Katie Compton was nowhere to be seen in the front. She had a mechanical problem early on and was forced to change bikes in the pits.
While she was working hard to get back to the front, van Paassen was chased and then overtaken by Nikki Harris and Helen Wyman. They both seemed stronger than van Paasen but then Compton fired up the engines and broke away from the field, leaving the two Brits to decide the remaining podium spots. Compton slipped in the final corner but Wyman wasn’t close enough to exploit Compton’s mistake.
A few things that stood out for me from the elite men’s race. First of all, Sven Nys wasn’t fast enough to challenge the top trio today. While he was clearly the strongest rider last week, in Tabor, today he was in damage control mode.
Then there was Klaas Vantornout, who came tantalisingly close to win a World Cup race: when they crossed the finish line before the last lap, Niels Albert’s lead was only 8 seconds. Yet he managed to hang on that lead and Vantornout bagged yet another silver medal.
Two riders were unable to replicate last week’s great performance. Lars van der Haar was close to the front for a while but faded away mid-race, which is fair enough, given how young he is. Jeremy Powers had problems after the start and ended at the very back of the field. He seemed clearly demoralised by the turn of events and finished pretty far back from the front.
It was a great race, the mud made it much harder the otherwise not too technical course. However, I couldn’t help but notice the moderate turnout, and the spectators were clearly less noise than the usual Flemish crowd.
I’m on my way back to London, it was a mad dash from Plzen to Prague by train and then catching the flight back to London. After taking last week off, I’m back to reality tomorrow, but only for a short while: Koppenbergcross is around the corner, so stay tuned, there’s more to come on Thursday!
Prague, the main train station
I didn’t arrive at Plzen in time on Saturday to shoot anything, so the day started for me on Sunday morning, with the juniors’ race. Here Mathieu van der Poel throws his overshoes to a team helper.
There was plenty of snow around but none on the course, it was just very, very muddy.
Quentin Hermans did put up quite a fight and made Van der Poel work hard for this win.
Double whammy – both bikes have lost their saddles. Not a good day for an unknown Italian junior rider.
Hermans’ attack didn’t stick and Van der Poel pulled away and he spent the last two laps in the front on his own.
Katie Compton’s Trek with very cool decals.
This photo shows how busy the start was right after the start of thte U23 field
Mike Teunissen (the man in white) was the force to be reckoned with for the most part of this season. After a bad start, however, he was riding mid-field in an attempt to salvage some points.
The course was very muddy so the mechanics worked their arses off to clean the bikes: most riders changed bikes every time they rode past the depo.
Wietse Bosmans is back – after a frustratingly long bad streak he won his first major race this season
The popular ‘cross reality, ‘Behind the barriers’ in the making
Steve Chainel was only watching the race today
Katie Compton focuses on the start sign, moments before the women’s race
In the first few laps it seemed that Sanne van Paassen would carry on obliterating the field but she became slower and slower and then she lost the fight even for the third place. Note Helen Wyman in the background: this photo was taken in the first lap and it was so muddy that many riders, including her, opted to change bikes with only half lap into the race.
The Rapha-Focus kit is prettiest kit around
I loved Kaitlin Antonneau’s remarkably determined look.
Nancy Bober fell on her knees on a tricky (and very muddy) slope
Nikki Harris didn’t have a good start, but with a great ride she moved up dynamically in the field and she was fast enough to grab a podium place eventually
Another Brit, another great ride: Helen Wyman upped the ante and finished second, one up from last week’s third place. The last time she finished second at a World Cup was back in 2006, the only place she is still missing is the first…
I didn’t know what to expect from the grande dame of the sport but Hanka Kupfernagel showed great form and finished in the top 10.
After a forgettable start, Katie Compton worked her way up to the front of the race and she left the opposition behind in the last lap, riding to the finish line on her own. This win was an important step towards her goal to win the overall title
It just shows how incredibly hard this race was. Most the riders were spent upon finishing
Amy Dombroski flashes a cheeky (and knackered) smile
Francesca Cauz didn’t seem happy with her race
A very happy and equally muddy Mark Legg-Compton
Helen Wyman loving her second place, Nikki Harris smiles quietly in the background
Zdenek Stybar was only a guest today, hence the regular attire
Zdenek Stybar was only a guest today, hence the regular attire
As always, Tom Meeusen started strong. Note the falling Mathieu Boullo in the background
Rob Peeters rode well but during one his visits to the pits, he failed to stop. The rules says that if you enter the pit area, you have to get off your bike, even if you decided not to swap bikes. He has failed to do so, hence he was disqualified.
Gerben de Knegt charges ahead after a quick pit stop.
Radomir Simunek was trying really hard once again, this was his second race in his homeland. Whichever point of the course he arrived at, the crowd welcomed him with huge cheering
Niels Albert attacked early in the race and while the chasing riders were never too far, they have failed to close the gap. In the penultimate lap, the gap came down to only 8 seconds between Albert and Klaas Vantornout
I love Klaas Vantornout, he’s very solid rider, he is always a top contender, but he always seem to lack that tiny little extra push that would allow him finally a major win. He got as close as 8 seconds to Albert but then he never managed to catch up with him and had to settle for second.
Jeremy Powers crashed hard right after the start but he was dead-last by the time they reached the first kilometer of the race. He was visibly demoralised by the setback.
Kevin Pauwels chases Niels Albert
Tom Meeusen’s dedicated face, mud and the photographer’s favourite Golden Hour – what more can one ask for?
Katie Compton cools down, while her back-up bike is spruced up by her victory bouquet.
The mud turned into this horrible, sticky substance by late afternoon, making every pedal stroke very hard work for the riders
Jeremy Powers on the top of the famous staircase of Plzen
Gerben de Knegt starts his last lap. At this point all cards are on the table, most riders do everything they can to not to lose momentum. Yet, in this corner, quite a few riders slowed down to a halt – De Knegt wasn’t one of them.
Niels Albert finishes the race in the ‘crossfire’ of the at least a dozen cameras
Vantornout, the great team mate he is, turns back to check whether Pauwels has got a chance to grab the second place but Peeters’ presence meant that giving up second wouldn’t do any good to Pauwels, so he reluctantly crossed the finish line
The classic, thousand-yard stare, performed by Tom Meeusen
Another knackered rider, Francis Mourey
Rob Peeters was furious when he learnt about the disqualification. The exchange with the UCI commissaire was in Flemish, so I wasn’t able to pick up the nuances.
A bad day for Lars van der Haar, I think his first this season.