Do you love cyclocross – or know someone who does? Check out my 2014/2015 Cyclocross Album
Enjoy the Superprestige Spa gallery and race report below. (Word edits by Nicholas Lemke)
New races always fill me with excitement. I have photographed Koksijde, for example, five times and each year it is increasingly difficult to find new angles and to show parts of the course that I havent already documented. The Koksijde course is especially hard, where the long sandy stretch is such a dominant course feature that it is not advisable to leave it out. Given this, I was rather excited about the new venue in Spa, which meant working from a clean slate without influence from yesteryear’s photos.
New venues, however, aren’t without their own challenges; in particular, navigating to the race and course entrance. Nine times out of ten, my good friend the SatNav helps me to get there, but I was on my own at Spa. After wasting precious time to find the Formula 1 course entrance, I missed the majority of the womens race. Fortunately, I was able to catch winner Nikki Harris account at the finish line:[quote text_size=”small” author=”Nikki Harris”]
I had a good start. Me and Sanne [Cant] got away together in the first two laps. She was going really, really hard and I was hanging onto her. I kept thinking, that she cant keep on going this hard this long. I kept going and going. The last lap was really tough. I knew Helen [Wyman] was chasing but I knew that I had a big enough gap with one to go, so I eased off a bit.[/quote]
Sanne Cant had mechanical problems and was forced to abandon.
The elite mens race saw some unusual contenders at the front in the first lap. Gert Jan Bosman and Patrick Gaudy showed their jerseys to the cameras, before Lars van der Haar, Kevin Pauwels and Tom Meeusen restored order. Meeusen reported that he felt great, until he had mechanical problems: I had to run to the materiaalpost. I didnt lose much time. I rejoined the back of the first group. But riding in the front of the group is much easier, you can make better choices, pick better lines and lose less power, so I had to wait to get to the front. By the time I got there, the first two were away.
Pauwels and van der Haar worked hard together to pull away from the chasers. van der Haar, who sat out the previous day’s World Cup, described his race: I wasnt feeling 100% today, I was feeling a bit weak, otherwise I would have been able to lead more, to help Kevin and work together more. I couldn’t. Kevin was far better than I today.”
Pauwels won with a dominant performance and is now leading the overall ranking for the Superprestige series, tied on equal points with van der Haar (who loses the tie break, as he’s not yet won a Superprestige this season). The next four riders, including Mathieu van der Poel, Sven Nys, Klaas Vantornout and Tom Meeusen are within five points.
Sven Nys was clearly unhappy at the finish and chose not to talk to the press or take a refreshment from his soigneur. He simply rolled back down the finishing hill, against traffic, clearly disappointed by eighth place.
Several racers had interesting things to say about the new course. Meeusen welcomed the foray into Wallonie: Most of the races are in Flanders, this is Wallonie, which is great and it is a very nice place to have a race. Even though we didnt go as fast the F1 cars, it was nice to race on the famous race track. Van der Haar also liked the course but he had a few remarks about safety:[quote text_size=”small” author=”Lars van der Haar”]
It was pretty similar, in difficulty, to Valkenburg, but there were some really dangerous parts, maybe the organisers should look at that.[/quote]
If you havent seen it yet, check out my coffee table album about the 2013/2014 cyclocross season. It is an exclusive chronicle of the 13/14 season on 240 high-quality, colourful pages.