I was driving home from Zonhoven last Sunday and I was listening to the live feed of the US cyclocross nationals. The timing was perfect – after I arrived at the ferry port in Dunkirk, I managed to catch the final lap. Watching Stephen Hyde winning the race made me think about meeting him a couple of years ago.
The first time I heard about Stephen Hyde was when the editor of my albums, Nick Lemke, asked if he could write a profile about this up-and-coming American rider for my then-next book. He said his name was Stephen Hyde. I had no idea who he was, it felt a bit of a random addition to the book, but someone just pulled out last minute, wasn’t able to deliver his article, so I had a gap to fill – and that’s how I met Stephen Hyde.
Given, that he was to be featured in the book, I started to take more photos of him and we started chatting before or after races. He struck me as a nice chap, but I didn’t see much promise in him. Nonetheless, I enjoyed his never fading optimism and his seemingly endless energy to battle the awful Belgian winter. For the next season, he signed for the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld squad and he started to come over to Europe for more and more racing. I don’t really remember how, but we started to develop a friendship.
He came over for almost the better part of the season last year and decided to learn from the best. He raced week in-week out and all that hard work culminated in an 11th place on one of the toughest course, Namur. I remember, near the end of the race, somehow I seem to have lost sight of him and I thought he was lapped. I was surprised when I saw him, rolling in at the 11th place. What a day that was.
Another memorable moment was in Zolder, just a few weeks later. I took this panning shot of him and Steve Chainel. You can see, that Chainel is turning his head towards Hyde. I only learned after the race, that they were both going for 10th place, but by the final lap, Chainel was cooked. So, as a last ditch effort, in the finishing straight, he gave Hyde a monster pull and I managed to catch the moment when he peeled off and let Hyde do his thing.
Near the end of the season, Stephen even invited me to his end-of-season retreat in Malaga in February. After shooting the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana race in Spain, I did take up on his offer and popped down for a day or two to the Costa del Sol for some good food and for a lot of talking about cyclocross.
This season has certainly had a challenges for him, so I was doubly happy to see him bouncing back and winning the nationals. A well-deserved win.