Belgian national champion Sanne Cant rides around the famous huge troll statues during Superprestige Boom.

Cyclocross gallery: From star-gazing trolls to a château in Normandy

It was a picturesque weekend of cyclocross as more multi-disciplinarians entered the field of battle.

Kit Nicholson
by Kit Nicholson 03.12.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Besides the tools of the trade and the inherent patterns of racing, there aren’t a great number of parallels between cyclocross and events like the Tour de France. However, like so much of cycling, the CX calendar takes the riders and their diehard fans all over the place, offering not just varying terrains and challenges, but new cultural sights to explore.

Sure, there’s a lot less time available for David Millar or [insert commentator of your choice] to trot out French château information, not to mention the significant lack of variation after the first 5-10 minutes as the riders enter lap two, but there’s nearly always something to tickle the curiosity, even if that just means typing the name of a wintery industrial Belgian town into Google.

Quite often there’s not much to be learned besides a lengthy relationship with cyclocross, but this weekend’s visits to Boom and Flamanville have offered more-than-usually picturesque racing against a backdrop of at-least quite interesting culture and/or history.

First was Saturday’s Superprestige round and a now traditional annual visit to the De Schorre park in Boom, Belgium, home to Tomorrowland, one of the world’s most famous music festivals, and seven striking giant trolls designed by Danish artist Thomas Dambo. It was bitterly cold, but unlike some parts of northern Europe was untouched by snow, and the sun’s ageing rays made for stunning scenes as the afternoon wore on.

Not everyone chose to make the trip over to Flamanville on the French Cotentin Peninsula – the unstoppable Fem van Empel joined a sick Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado on the non-starters list for the World Cup’s sixth round – but you might argue that’s a good thing, setting up some attritional racing in the loose French mud.

While Van Empel remains seemingly peerless among the elite women, the men’s field has laid on some pretty thrilling racing most weekends so far this season. But that’s all about to change (probably), with Wout van Aert set to make his first appearance at Exact Cross in Emmen next weekend, and Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel rejoining the field on 16 and 22 December respectively. Brace yourselves …

A wide shot of riders on the 'Stairway to Eternity', a 60-metre-long mosaic stairway in the main amphitheatre of De Schorre park, Boom, home of the Tomorrowland festival and Superprestige Boom.
One of the features that makes Boom quite such an appealing event to watch: the ‘Stairway to Eternity’, a 60-metre-long hand-laid mosaic stairway, chiefly depicting Mother Earth and Mother Nature, that sits in the main amphitheatre of the festival grounds. In its entirety, there are no less than 700 square metres of hand-cut mosaic pieces, more than five million all told. Intended to represent the festival’s value in bringing together people from over 200 countries, the work is a collaboration between the Tomorrowland team, Cuban artist Michel Herrera Cuello, Parisian mosaic expert Jean-Christophe Duperron, and traditional Italian mosaic company Mosaici Moruzzi.
Inge van der Heijden leaps over the barriers holding her bike during Superprestige Boom, Annemarie Worst a few metres ahead of her.
As always, the women got the elite action underway; Inge van der Heijden (Crelan-Corendon) chases Annemarie Worst (Cyclocross Reds), who had the Superprestige leadership to chase down in Alvarado’s absence.
Belgian national champion Sanne Cant rides around the famous huge troll statues during Superprestige Boom.
Sanne Cant navigates her way around the base of the most visible trolls in the park. These two (of seven) are apparently called Una and Juires, best friends who love to gaze at the stars and clouds together.
Alicia Franck of De Ceuster-Bonache and Denise Betsema of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal lead the group early in Superprestige Boom, world champion Fem van Empel a little behind them.
Alicia Franck (De Ceuster-Bonache) had a strong start in Boom, alongside Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) who has enjoyed her strongest weekend of the season thus far with sixth- and fourth-place finishes.
Annemerie Worst of Cyclocross Reds leads a group on a grassy descent against a clear blue sky during Cyclocross Superprestige Boom.
Worst had a good day out, third proving enough to take over the Superprestige lead by five points as Alvarado took an unscheduled break.
Puck Pieterse, mud splattered and wearing the colours of Dutch national champion, during Cyclocross Superprestige Boom.
Puck Pieterse hasn’t raced much yet this season, Boom being only her fourth appearance, but the Dutch champion always brings form to the races, leaping to her third runner-up finish of the year (third in Kortrijk completes her clean sweep of podium finishes so far).
World champion Fem van Empel of Jumbo-Visma during Superprestige Boom.
The only way Van Empel can lose is by not turning up.
World champion Fem van Empel celebrates winning Cyclocross Superprestige Boom with both fists in the air.
She’s unstoppable.
The men's field passes alongside the crowd during Cyclocross Superprestige Boom.
Joris Nieuwenhuis rides out of the saddle as he leads Superprestige Boom.
Joris Nieuwenhuis is flying at the moment, and the 27-year-old has been particularly strong at the recent Superprestige rounds, second at Niel being followed up by his biggest win of the season at Merksplas. True to form, he arrived in Boom with diamonds in his legs.
European champion Michael Vanthourenhout rides a grassy descent during Superprestige Boom, backlit by the low sun that's appearing under his arm.
European champion Michael Vanthourenhout made his second appearance since dislocating his shoulder, riding to fifth at Boom before skipping the trip to France along with many of his peers.
Well wrapped up against the cold, Thibau Nys leans into a corner as he sprints away from his rivals during Cyclocross Superprestige Boom.
Thibau Nys has shown sparks of the form he carried through October and into November, but a heavy weekend on wearing courses seemed to get the better of the young rider.
Cameron Mason in the mud-spattered British national champion's jersey during Cyclocross Superprestige Boom.
Having recently moved into an apartment a stone’s throw from the Boom venue, Cameron Mason was able to walk to work on Saturday for his ‘new home’ race.
Wrapped up warm, Eli Iserbyt squints in the late-afternoon sun during Cyclocross Superprestige Boom.
Eli Iserbyt seems not to need a day off, which is all very well as he continues to shore up his lead in both Superprestige and World Cup overall competitions.
A wide shot shows snaking off-camber turns on the course as the men's field races Cyclocross Superprestige Boom.
A head-on close-up of a bike's wheels and a rider's muddy shoes on the finishing straight of Superprestige Boom.
Michael Vanthourenhout emits a puff of golden breath in the freezing temperatures during Superprestige Boom.
It was very very cold in Boom, and the temperature combined with golden hour made for an atmospheric finish to the men’s race.
Joris Nieuwenhuis celebrates winning Cyclocross Superprestige Boom with his arms thrown wide, golden light illuminating his breath in the freezing cold temperatures.
Nieuwenhuis held off his rivals to take his second Superprestige win of the season.
A close-up of Scottish and Cyclocross Reds rider Cameron Mason during Superprestige Boom.
Mason fought hard to a brilliant second place, 10 seconds behind the winner and 42 seconds ahead of third-place Iserbyt.
Lucinda Brand chases after Marie Schreiber and Denise Betsema during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Over in Flamanville where the temperature was a balmy 8-10°C, Lucinda Brand was the top favourite with Van Empel, Pieterse and Alvarado all staying home.
Mid shot of Hélène Clauzel in a mud-splattered French national champion's jersey during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
French national champion Hélène Clauzel (AS Bike Racing) was a popular rider on the French course.
Sanne Cant's Belgian national champion's jersey is unzipped as she pushes her bike up a ramp during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville, the castle in the background.
Sanne Cant had a weekend of distinctly mixed fortunes, netting eighth in Boom before being forced to DNF shortly after a heavy fall during World Cup Flamanville.
Marie Schreiber rides hard early in Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville as Lucinda Brand chases in the background.
After a tricky start for many on the slimy mud, Luxembourg national champion Marie Schreiber enjoyed an early lead, while Brand was forced to chase from further back than she’d have liked.
Lucinda Brand solo during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
The Dutch veteran was unfazed though, leapfrogging through the field until she reached Schreiber, doing so a little sooner than she might have after the younger rider slid out. The two rode together for about as long as it takes to draw breath before Brand put the hammer down with a trademark hit, and was never seen again.
Shirin van Anrooij during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
This weekend marked a return to CX for a number of riders including Shirin van Anrooij who’s back racing for the first time since the US trip. The Dutch rider had a slow start but fought back to a remarkable fifth place after finding herself on the very back of the bunch in the first lap.
Leonie Bentveld of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal celebrates her third-place finish at Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Behind Brand, World Cup Flamanville was a big day for the youngsters in the field, 19-year-old Leonie Bentveld and 20-year-old Schreiber both climbing onto their first elite podium.
Close-up of Blanka Vas, her face and Red Bull-branded helmet splattered with mud, after Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Blanka Vas raced her first full weekend a week after her season debut, taking seventh and 13th at Boom and Flamanville respectively.
Toon Vandebosch of Crelan-Corendon during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
In the men’s race, Toon Vandebosch enjoyed a characteristic fast start before slipping to 11th by the end of the race.
Pim Ronhaar riding solo during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Early on, Pim Ronhaar got a decent wedge of fresh air ahead of a dangerous group of favourites.
Lars van der Haar and Joris Nieuwenhuis of Baloise Trek Lions ride together during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Lars van der Haar and Joris Nieuwenhuis plugged away on the French course, sweeping around the imposing Château de Flamanville and alongside its pond, dodging geese and flares on their way to top-five finishes.
With the Château de Flamanville in the background, Kevin Kuhn of Circus-Reuz-Technord digs deep during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Kevin Kuhn turned a powerful start, which saw him take an early lead before Ronhaar took over, into a strong sixth-place finish.
Eli Iserbyt in the World Cup leader's white jersey flicks up mud as he sprints away from Pim Ronhaar during Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Ronhaar began to fade as the laps chalked up and with about half the race to go, Iserbyt seemed to shift gear, leaving behind his fellow chasers and powering his way up to Ronhaar before taking over the race lead.
Winner Eli Iserbyt greets the crowd with high fives in the finishing straight of Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
In his own words, Iserbyt was able to “grow into the race” and finish with a decent cushion, “but very tired”.
Lars van der Haar crosses the finish line looking weary at Cyclocross world cup Flamanville.
A late surge saw Van der Haar overtake his teammate for second – Ronhaar told media he was a “a dying swan” by the finish, “I almost fell off the podium” – and was a picture of exhaustion at the finish line.
A muddy Joris Nieuwenhuis pulls on a clean Baloise Trek Lions team jacket after Cyclocross World Cup Flamanville.
Another weekend done, time to warm up and recover.

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