Superprestige cyclo-cross: the travelling circus
Photos from behind the barrier at the second round of the Superprestige cyclo-cross series in Zonhoven, Belgium
by George Scott
From October to February each year a convoy of campervans carrying riders, bikes, mechanics and team staff criss-crosses the roads of Europe throughout the professional cyclo-cross season.
Three main competitions make-up the 'cross season: the World Cup, Superprestige and GvA Trophy. It's a packed calendar, with 24 races (eight races in each of the three season-long competitions) jammed into four months of racing.
The size of a rider's campervan(s) within the travelling circus depends on their prestige. Some roll up in a small van with bikes carefully squeezed into the back and a sole mechanic in tow, while others, like Belgian national champion Sven Nys, have a complete fleet of vehicles and a host of staff at their service.
On race day the campervans roll up to the race course. Bikes and wheels are unpacked, mechanics prepare the machines for action, riders warm up and sign autographs and fans coo over the heroes before them.
We pitched up to the second round of the Superprestige season in Zonhoven, having ridden the course 24 hours previous, to take a look.
A team Telenet-Fidea tends to Amy Dombroksi's Ridley X-Fire ahead of the elite women's race
American Dombroski was the only non-European rider in the 14-strong elite women's field
Cyclo-cross racing is full gas from the gun so a good warm-up on a turbo trainer or rollers is vital
World champion Niels Albert's Colnago Prestige proudly shows off the Belgian's status as world champion. Albert won a second world title earlier this year having previous triumphed in 2009
Albert's mechanic carefully files down the Palmans-Sapim-Collstrop rider's brake pads
Enough wheels for you?
A professional cyclo-cross rider typically has three bikes for race-day. Riders can change bikes mid-race and, while one bike is getting clogged up with mud or sand on the track, team mechanics clean and repair the spares
Sven Nys even has his own mobile shop...
...and there's no shortage of fans ready to show their support for Nys, who is considered the finest cyclo-cross rider of his generation
Extra grip on these SRAM Red shifters
There's only one way to properly clean shoes after a cyclo-cross race
Race winner Nys - a national hero in Belgium - signs autographs for fans after triumphing on the infamous Zonhoven track
The field begins to empty of campervans as the sun sets over Zonhoven. Onto the next stop on the annual cyclo-cross roadshow...