The Citadelle de Namur is one of the icons of the Belgian cyclocross season. Situated in the Wallonia region of Belgium, it is a castle on a hill that was in use at least since the Roman era and up until the middle of the 20th century. Always a difficult race with a lot of climbing, this year’s edition was an all-timer. The organizers added even more climbing and some descents that tested the limits of what should be considered for a ‘cross race. And then it rained. Hard. Already challenging descents became rivers of mud and the steep uphills became nearly insurmountable.
Corne van Kessel hits the first (of many) muddy, rocky and root-y downhill sections. Van Kessel ended up on the podium after Pidcock’s last lap crash..
The pack comes through the first downhill section. Due to the way the start and finish were separated on this course, this section was ridden twice before the riders hit the finish line for the first time.
Toon Aerts leads Mathieu van der Poel through the iconic long off-camber.
The legendary Namur off-camber. Only one line in this year’s edition.
Lukas Winterberg before the mud made him difficult to spot.
Tom Pidcock riding in third place. Pidcock rode in the third position for most of the race until a crash, on the section pictured here, ended his chance at the podium.
Eli Iserbyt. All of the top contenders suffered due to the conditions but Iserbyt paid the highest price. The World Cup leader was forced to abandon and lost his overall lead to Toon Aerts with three rounds remaining.
Canadian national champion, Michael van den Ham. Van den Ham was top Canadian in 32nd place and second North American.
Andrew Juiliano struggles to stay upright as he slides into the fencing. He was successful and avoided the fate of many other riders who hit the ground hard in this section or ran into the poles.
Curtis White drops on on the long stair-step descent. This portion is the fast drop after the fly-over.
Toon, Mathieu and the pouring rain are illuminated by a photographer’s flash (but not mine).
Joris Nieuwenhuis dropping in on a very steep drop. Nieuwenhuis was one of the riders who looked especially miserable at the finish but he managed a 14th place finish.
This short steep section would likely have been ride-able if it had been dry. As the conditions worsened throughout the day it became barely run-able.
Pan-American champion Kerry Werner navigates a steep downhill. Werner was the second American, finishing in 36th place in the second stop of his 2019-2020 European campaign.
A mud-covered Jim Aernouts struggles up a slippery run-up. Aernouts finished the race in 34th place. 12th Belgian.
Italian rider Nicolas Samparisi using the fencing to help him get up a steep uphill section. Samparisi was 49th on the day.
Toon Aerts rides through one of the many deep puddles on the course. As the day went on and the rain came down harder, these large puddles became deeper and deeper. Toon crashed in one of these earlier in the race and he later suggested his last-lap crash was due in part to the chill he was experiencing after getting completely soaked.
Mathieu van der Poel shoulders his bike up a run-up. Van der Poel appeared to go to his absolute limits in his battle with Toon Aerts.
Mathieu van der Poel in the closing laps. Large numbers of spectators stayed to the end of the day despite the miserable conditions and difficulty moving around the course.
Mathieu van der Poel is elated to win in Namur. After a close battle with Toon Aerts and fighting back from multiple punctures, Mathieu van der Poel shows a side not often seen as he crosses the line.
Tom Pidcock, shivering and exhausted, is surrounded by photographers after the finish. Due to a crash on a steep mud chute, Pidcock lost his podium place on the last lap to Corne van Kessel.
Laurens Sweeck needs help to remove his gloves at the finish. Many of the riders were soaked through and frozen at the finish to the point where they could not use their hands.
Curtis White at the finish. Curtis was the top American in 27th place.