A snowy course in Hoogerheide provided a suitably tough finish to another tough season in arguably the toughest of all cycling disciplines.
The freezing temperatures failed to chill a season-long conflict between the three best riders in men’s ‘cross: Neils Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), and Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony).
Albert emerged victorious from a battle that went to the wire, benefitting from Pauwels’ broken chain and Nys’ failure to climb higher than fourth on a treacherous course.
The women’s race saw another master class from a rider frequently in a class of her own: Marianne Vos (Rabobank). Swapping the rainbow stripes of world road race champion for the rainbow stripes of world cyclo-cross champion, Vos completed the third win of her four-race World Cup comeback.
The series had already been claimed by Katie Compton (Trek), however. A fresh battle between the pair, and the resumption of hostilities among Albert, Pauwels, and Nys, will represent the more intriguing battles of the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, on February 2 and 3.
Balint Hamvas was on the spot to capture all the action from Hoogerheide in this gallery of stunning images.
Sven Nys calls on his legendary bike handling skills to remain upright on a Hoogerheide course covered in snow and ice
Kevin Pauwels tip-toes through one of the more treacherous corners. His title challenge was ultimately blunted by a broken chain
Niels Albert takes evasive action to avoid Nys
Britain’s Helen Wyman makes a determined pursuit of Rabobank team-mates Vos and Van Paassen
Gabby Day cuts a lonely figure in this image, but ground out a dogged performance to finish seventeenth