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A Picture in Time

Image of Peter Van PetegemDate: April 13th, 2003
Where: Secteur Pavé 12 d’Auchy à Bersée
Features: Peter Van Petegem

By Andy Jones

This was a historic Paris-Roubaix win for Peter Van Petegem because he won the Tour of Flanders the week before, so did the cobbled classic double, the first man to achieve that since fellow Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck did it in 1977.

It was a beautiful spring day and I was covering the race for Cycling Weekly and Cycle Sport magazines with fellow photographer Phil O’Connor and the editor of Land Rover magazine, Luke Edwardes-Evans. Luke had also edited cycling mags for group, IPC Media, which owned all three magazine as well as many others.

Luke got hold of a brand new Range Rover to test for the weekend, and the cobbles of the Hell of the North was a good place to test it. On the Saturday before the race we recced some of the roughest pavé sectors, while Phil took photos of Luke driving the Range Rover across them for his report.

Having that car worked out well for us on the race, because we were able to leapfrog across country to see several pavé sectors, including this one at Bersée with 51 kilometres to go. We drove to sector 4, Carrefour de l’Arbe next, which was only 17 kilometres from the finish, for more photos and still made it to the Velodrome de Roubaix for the finish. The car had a TV in the dash, so we could watch all the action on that. In the end we got photos and reports for three magazines in one trip.

I chose the Bersée cobbles for this photo because I knew it has a bend in it, so was perfect for getting close-ups of riders cornering on the bumpy and on this day very dusty cobbles. I used my Nikon D1H with a 24-70mm lens and flash for the shot, getting in real close having pre-focussed the lens to this spot on the bend. 

Van Petegem looks every bit the master of conditions as he scythes through the apex, his eyes looking through the corner, focussing on his line. You can see how he shifts his upper body slightly over his outside pedal, distributing his weight to help with traction in the corner and drive his bike through it. The Belgian was every bit the master of this kind of racing and at his peak in 2003. 

Van Petegem’s jersey is for the UCI road World Cup leader, a season-long competition for the classics riders back then. Paolo Bettini led it first in 2003, after winning Milan-San Remo. Van Petegem took it after Flanders and kept it all the way through Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But when the competition began again in Germany with the HEW Cyclassics in early August, which Bettini won, the Italian took it back and kept it to the end.

All in all it was a very memorable day out in the Hell of the North, and a privilege to see and to capture a master like Peter Van Petegem at work.


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