So the first race on Sunday was the women’s race. When it started, the weather was ok but when the riders crossed the finish line for the last time, it was boiling hot. The mud on the course itself more or less dried up, but it wasn’t dusty – from our point of view, it couldn’t have been better.
Probably it was the beginning of the chase for the olympic qualification, or just the good weather, but there were more than hundred women riders, which meant that the best riders had to wait more than fifteen minutes before start.
She is one of my favourite riders, she is always smiling, always chatty. Also, a damn good rider. Her season started kind of slow but her form improved in Houffalize, so she had a positive outlook for this race.
I didn’t wait for the start but made my way through the furthest part of the course. The plan was to slowly come back to catch the finish. I quite liked this angle, first the leaves in the bottom annoyed me but then I realised I quite liked it. There is, however, a weird green hue in the picture. It’s not a white balance thing, the light came through the leaves and it panted the light greenish.
She can also make cool grimaces during decants, a rare talent.
It was this frame when there was a big bang – I guess her tyre got flat right in front of me. After that, she was working hard but couldn’t catch up with the lead and finished at 51st.
I set up two lights in this corner, both at 1/128th power, one from the back, one from the front. It never ceases to amaze me that when I use two lights, I can get away with so much more and still get very sharp images. Catherine Pendrel led the race from the second lap and tried to make the gap bigger and bigger.
Houffalize victor Eva Lechner wasn’t on the top of her game, though she started relatively well, she wasn’t able to keep up with the pace Pendrel dictated and finished at 7th eventually.
I knew that Sven Nys was here but I didn’t know that another renowned ‘crosser was there too: Katherine Compton. Though her position on the start grid was less than good, she finished at a remarkable 19th position, an excellent performance.
British rider Annie Last.
This is my favourite photo of the weekend, hands down. The things I like about it is that it’s well lit but the presence of the flashguns is not obvious, her face shows enormous concentration, the shouting spectators on the side make it more intense, the suspension fork shows the demanding nature of this descent and the rear tyre is in the air a bit. This was one of the trickiest descents, it was steep and big roots made it hard to ride. Obviously, massive amounts of spectators gathered at this location to see some action. And that’s exactly what they got.
I like the way her back mimics the shape of the frame. She is Japanese rider Katayama Rie.
Everybody messes up sometimes. Or maybe it’s just me. But this is what happened. I wanted to use two lights again and it was exceptionally hard to place the strobes where I wanted them and then getting back to the my spot. So I set the lights up, went back to my spot at the bottom of this descent and lied down in the mud, course-side . This was the first photo I have taken and I didn’t understand, what was wrong with the flash, why wasn’t the output at the required level. Reluctantly, I turned the remote controllers of and snapped from this position without the strobes. When I went back to pick the flash up, I realised what had happened. I had had to change batteries in the unit and that had removed any preset values – like the output level. You live and learn.
Same spot, no flashes this time, not too bad but with a little light, her face could have been a bit sharper.
Only a handful women started this section through the stump, which probably offered an easier descent. The ever-smiling Elisabeth Osl chose the more spectacular route, of course.
Katherine Compton. Yes, I’m a bit biased towards ‘cross riders. Hope that’s ok.
Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa
Luna rider camaraderie.
She was as happy as if she had won the race. She didn’t, Osl finished 5th, but that didn’t stop her smiling.
Another happy camper: U23 rider Julie Bresset might not have made the grown-up’s podium on Sunday but she won the U23 classification again which means three wins in a row.
She was one of the few unhappy rider. She finished at 13th which meant that she lost her lead in the overall world cup standings. And no amount of ink on the left arm could change that.
The most successful team of the day was the Luna Pro Team.
If I was a newspaper, I’d make a caption contest: what was Georgia Gould thinking?
This photo might be bit deceiving, she was happy about her silver medal.
Jolly good mood on the podium.