As the dust settles

Cyclocross is a sport as ugly as it is beautiful. Held in extreme weather, on dusty fields and in frozen forests filled with fans, the UCI World Cup season ended last weekend at Hoogerheide. The men’s calendar was dominated by Dutch phenom Mathieu van der Poel, who won seven out of nine races, while the women’s field delivered far more exciting competition, with any of the top 15 crossers capable of winning on their day.

Ahead of the world championships this weekend, we asked photographer Russ Ellis to present a selection of his best images from the 2017/18 season. He’s managed to make the ugly look more beautiful than ever.

This year saw the first UCI World Cup to be held in Denmark. The Bogense course was technical, with extremely steep banks to be navigated.
World champion Wout van Aert attempts to chase down Mathieu van der Poel in the heat and dust of Iowa at Waterloo.
Rapha athlete Sophie de Boer runs along the famous stretch of sand at the Koksijde course in Belgium.
A group of veteran CX spectators out walking off their Christmas dinner at the Boxing Day race in Zolder.
Aspire Racing’s Ellen Noble is stoked at her first ever elite women’s UCI World Cup podium at round two in Waterloo, Iowa.
Mathieu van der Poel crests the bizarre steep climb on the Bogense course.
Canyon//SRAM’s multi-discipline master Pauline Ferrand-Prévot returned to cross after two years away. Here she is at Zolder, blasting her way to 4th place.
Twilight racing in front of the huge crowds in Denmark.
There is no CX in Belgium without frites.
Sand pits aren’t the sole preserve of children. Here’s Wout van Aert wiggling through the ruts at Koksijde.
Beer money for post-race rehydration at the US rounds in December.
Cyclocross races always have a party atmosphere, whether in the US or back in Europe.
The 40-degree heat of the US races was a shock to the system of cyclocross racers used to competing in the cold northern European winter.
It rained and it rained in Zeven but cyclocross wouldn’t be half as enthralling without the mud.
British uber-talent Tom Pidcock continued to wow, easily winning the U23 overall World Cup standings.
The US scene has its own unique set of cyclocross fans that make the racing what it is.
Wout van Aert, exhausted after a hard hour’s work.
Hands in the air is always a good feeling, or so they say.