What a day! As I’m from Hungary and cyclocross is a marginal sport there, when I set out to shoot cyclocross all those years ago, I never even dreamed of having one day a Hungarian rider on the podium of a race in Belgium. The few riders, who might have had a chance to be there are mountain bikers and they just couldn’t fit cross into their preparations for the MTB season.
When Kata Blanka Vas finished 10th in Koppenbergcross just a month ago, I was super happy for her, and I knew that she is a big talent, but I thought she was so young, she’d need a few more years to pull off a big result. It turns out, she didn’t need years, just a few weeks. Ok, it was a smaller race, the field was relatively thin, but then again, Kata is only 18 years old.
After she crossed the finish line, the chaperones quickly ushered here to the podium. On the way there, many people congratulated her, including the 1994 World Champion, Paul Herygers. His Hungarian connection dates back to his World Champion title. As he headed out for his final lap in Koksijde, a hapless Hungarian rider, Gabor Schneider, who was about to be lapped, gave him a monster pull through the finishing straight, allowing Herygers to recover a little. It’s unclear how much useful this actually was, but in 2012, he invited Schneider to Belgium, he took part in the celebrity race in Lille and Sporza even made a short feature about him. Long story short, Herygers is fond of Hungarians.
As we approached the tent behind the podium, the TV people asked her about the interview. She was so overwhelmed that she didn’t want to do the interview. To solve the impasse, I offered to translate – who knew that one day my Hungarian heritage will come handy? I don’t think it was actually aired, at least I can’t find it in the highlights, but it was quite cool to be a tiny part of her success.
I wasn’t expecting much from today’s races and I came away with a memory that I will never forget. Thank you, Kata Blanka Vas!