Sunday was the day of the Belgian National Road Race Championship, which was held in Leuven this year (for the first time in history). As this is one of the biggest events (after the spring classics) in the Belgian cycling calendar, it is not surprising, that the preparations and the race itself turned the city upside down. Streets were closed down and endless crowds were moving along the route (17 rounds of 14.2 km) of the race from the early morning (to get the best spots) till the end of the podium ceremony – so basically all day long. The podium finishers were:
1. Stijn Devolder (Quick Step, #4) with an average speed of 41.091 km/h on 239.7 km
2. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto, #23) 0:23
3. Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team, #91) 0:24
For me, this was the best opportunity to test and practice with my equipment (new additions: Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash, a Lowepro Fastpack 250 backpack, and – for the time being – a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens – thanks to Dr. Stefan Uttenthaler for lending the latter to me for these races) which I will use on the first days of the Tour de France next week. I was there at the start, then from 4 PM till the end I was running around various point along the course. I have to admit I have learned a lot, and I got to know my equipment much better in a quite short time. Of course I made a lot of blurred or out-of-focus pictures (experimenting with focus modes, autofocus areas and exposure times), and images where I missed half of the cyclist (following – or tracking – someone riding with 40 km/h just a couple of meters from you with a big telephoto lens is everything but easy – the lens is heavy, the field of view is small, and the cyclists are fast…), but as time went by, I had more and more good pictures, so I am very optimistic about my future keep-rate (number of images not ending up in the trash immediately) on the Tour de France. (But please pray with me for good weather – ok, any kind of weather is fine, if it does not involve rain.) As soon as I am ready with all the images, I will let you know, but I still have unprocessed pictures from earlier events, so for now, I have only a short photo-report. I have selected images of the top 3 cyclists (look for their numbers above) plus some interesting/nice ones, so please, enjoy!