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Gallery: Behind the lens in Cyclo-cross

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Belgian Mario De Clercq, the legend and past world champion

Belgian Mario De Clercq, the legend and past world champion
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In the latter part of the 2012 season, icy conditions had Steve Chainel bundling up for races

In the latter part of the 2012 season, icy conditions had Steve Chainel bundling up for races
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Niels Albert (Belgium) rides to the world championship in 2012

Niels Albert (Belgium) rides to the world championship in 2012
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The sands of Koksijde provided a unique selection in the 2012 world championships

The sands of Koksijde provided a unique selection in the 2012 world championships
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Marianne Vos has won more 'cross races than we can count.

Marianne Vos has won more 'cross races than we can count.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jeremy Powers shows off his US champion's jersey at Kalmthout

Jeremy Powers shows off his US champion's jersey at Kalmthout
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The stars of 'cross like Sven Nys aren't afraid to get their hands (and everything else) dirty

The stars of 'cross like Sven Nys aren't afraid to get their hands (and everything else) dirty
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Riders slip through the mud in Loenhout, 2011

Riders slip through the mud in Loenhout, 2011
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Zdenek Stybar isn't used to being out-sprinted, but his loss to Kevin Pauwels made him annoyed

Zdenek Stybar isn't used to being out-sprinted, but his loss to Kevin Pauwels made him annoyed
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sven Nys celebrates his win in the Namur World Cup in 2011

Sven Nys celebrates his win in the Namur World Cup in 2011
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Bart Wellens enjoys a rare late-career victory in Essen in 2011

Bart Wellens enjoys a rare late-career victory in Essen in 2011
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sven Nys wrapped up the 2012 'cross season with a win

Sven Nys wrapped up the 2012 'cross season with a win
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In the early part of 'cross season, temperatures are enough to warrant short sleeves.

In the early part of 'cross season, temperatures are enough to warrant short sleeves.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sven Nys gets sideways in the mud in Vorselaar, the Superprestige finale of 2005.

Sven Nys gets sideways in the mud in Vorselaar, the Superprestige finale of 2005.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Dutchman Richard Groenendaal in the sand

Dutchman Richard Groenendaal in the sand
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Belgian Erwin Vervecken demonstrates a perfect re-mount

Belgian Erwin Vervecken demonstrates a perfect re-mount
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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German Hanka Kupfernagel on her way to winning her home World Championships in 2005 in St. Wendel

German Hanka Kupfernagel on her way to winning her home World Championships in 2005 in St. Wendel
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In Hofstade 2004, Nys rides along the beach

In Hofstade 2004, Nys rides along the beach
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Dutch legend Richard Groenendaal in the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy cyclocross race in Niel, 2004.

Dutch legend Richard Groenendaal in the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy cyclocross race in Niel, 2004.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In 2004, Bart Wellens raced as world champion

In 2004, Bart Wellens raced as world champion
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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John Gadret covered head to toe in mud.

John Gadret covered head to toe in mud.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In Asper Gavere, 2003, then-world champion Bart Wellens was chased by costumed fans

In Asper Gavere, 2003, then-world champion Bart Wellens was chased by costumed fans
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Even fans in Belgium dress crazy. Bart Wellens is accosted by a man in a string bikini in 2003

Even fans in Belgium dress crazy. Bart Wellens is accosted by a man in a string bikini in 2003
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sometimes running over the barriers is quicker than trying to bunny hop them, as Mariusz Gil discovers

Sometimes running over the barriers is quicker than trying to bunny hop them, as Mariusz Gil discovers
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Zdenek Stybar won the Superprestige in Hamme-Zogge in 2011

Zdenek Stybar won the Superprestige in Hamme-Zogge in 2011
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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American Jonathan Page in 2010

American Jonathan Page in 2010
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In 2009, Sven Nys won his 50th Superprestige race, the tally keeps rising.

In 2009, Sven Nys won his 50th Superprestige race, the tally keeps rising.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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2008 world champion Lars Boom dominated 'cross until he decided to focus on his road career

2008 world champion Lars Boom dominated 'cross until he decided to focus on his road career
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Niels Albert and Sven Nys climb away from the water in Gieten in 2007

Niels Albert and Sven Nys climb away from the water in Gieten in 2007
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Skills in the sand won Erwin Vervecken (rear) the 2007 world championship

Skills in the sand won Erwin Vervecken (rear) the 2007 world championship
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Clement Lhotellerie tackles the run-up in Pontchateau at the Junior European Championship in 2005.

Clement Lhotellerie tackles the run-up in Pontchateau at the Junior European Championship in 2005.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In 2005, Sven Nys was able to compete in the rainbow jersey.

In 2005, Sven Nys was able to compete in the rainbow jersey.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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A very young Lars Boom at the start of his cyclo-cross dominance in 2003

A very young Lars Boom at the start of his cyclo-cross dominance in 2003
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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American Alison Dunlap was once one of the best 'cross racers in the world

American Alison Dunlap was once one of the best 'cross racers in the world
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Even the 2001 World Champion Erwin Vervecken took the occasional plunge in the mud

Even the 2001 World Champion Erwin Vervecken took the occasional plunge in the mud
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In tight turns, sometimes the best strategy is to use the course furniture for leverage

In tight turns, sometimes the best strategy is to use the course furniture for leverage
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Marianne Vos rides down the flyover at the 2010 world championships

Marianne Vos rides down the flyover at the 2010 world championships
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Francis Mourey demonstrates his style over the barriers.

Francis Mourey demonstrates his style over the barriers.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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At the start of 2011, Kevin Pauwels seemed unbeatable, winning the opening Superprestige round in Erpe-Mere

At the start of 2011, Kevin Pauwels seemed unbeatable, winning the opening Superprestige round in Erpe-Mere
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Marianne Vos and Hanka Kupfernagel in the Hoogerheide mud

Marianne Vos and Hanka Kupfernagel in the Hoogerheide mud
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Niels Albert in the World Cup lead in 2011

Niels Albert in the World Cup lead in 2011
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Thick mud makes 'cross more fun

Thick mud makes 'cross more fun
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Hailing from the Czech Republic, Zdenek Stybar was always good in icy conditions.

Hailing from the Czech Republic, Zdenek Stybar was always good in icy conditions.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Fenchman Francis Mourey is a perennial 'cross favourite

Fenchman Francis Mourey is a perennial 'cross favourite
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Czech Zdenek Stybar in 2010 at the height of his 'cross career, he too would eventually give up the discipline to focus on the road.

Czech Zdenek Stybar in 2010 at the height of his 'cross career, he too would eventually give up the discipline to focus on the road.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sven Nys demonstrates his ability to ride over the barriers in the 2010 world championships

Sven Nys demonstrates his ability to ride over the barriers in the 2010 world championships
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The Belgians are always at the head of the pack.

The Belgians are always at the head of the pack.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Back in 2000, Laurence Leboucher tackles a typical run-up

Back in 2000, Laurence Leboucher tackles a typical run-up
(Image credit: AFP Photo)

The days are getting shorter, and there's a chill in the air as the low sun filters through leaves of red, orange and yellow. The roadies are calling an end to their season, but that doesn't mean that cycling fans have to find another sport to watch - because the mud is calling, the beer is flowing, the frites are frying and cyclo-cross season is upon us!

In the USA, the top 'cross racers have already had their first big races of the year: CrossVegas and the first round of the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross in Wisconsin. But it isn't until the Belgians get fully underway that it can be said that 'cross season has started.

This weekend is the first C1 race in Belgium at the Vlaamse Industrieprijs Bosduin in Kalmthout on Sunday, which means four full fields of competitors for the junior, under 23, elite women and elite men. The men and women will also compete on Saturday at the C2-ranked Fidea Cross in Neerpelt.

Who will be on top? Last season Niels Albert came out swinging under the hot sun, his victory here presaged his world championship victory four months later. Sven Nys will be returning from holiday to face Albert and Kevin Pauwels, who also had a strong start in the previous year.

Women's world champion Marianne Vos will again delay her 'cross season in order to wind down from her extraordinarily successful road season, in which she won the Olympic and world titles.

In order to whet your appetites for 'cross season, Cyclingnews has compiled a huge gallery of images from past races, courtesy of AFP.