With the race falling during the holidays each year, Azencross in Loenhout is one part cyclocross race, one part party.

The atmosphere at the Kerstperiode race was festive, even as the sun started to set. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

The atmosphere at the Kerstperiode race was festive, even as the sun started to set. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Not surprisingly, the venue’s famed rollers make for a popular spectating spot — and great visual media fodder — even if they do not really affect the outcomes of the races.

Wout van Aert shows how to pump it on the rollers. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Wout van Aert shows how to pump it on the rollers. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Another aspect of the Azencross course is the small drainage ditches that are deceptively hard to get over. Wonder why riders were dismounting to enter the pits? These small ditches are why.

Stephen Hyde hops one of the drainage swales. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Stephen Hyde hops one of the drainage swales. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Thanks to the weather, the circuit at Azencross was a bit of a tale of two courses. The first half soaked up pre-race rains and became a giant mud pit.

The first half of the course at Azencross turned into something resembling a giant mud pit. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

The first half of the course at Azencross turned into something resembling a giant mud pit. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

While the second half was a bit drier and a bit more rollier. (Rollier is totally a word, right?)

Katie Compton, Helen Wyman and Loes Sels go through the rollers. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Katie Compton, Helen Wyman and Loes Sels go through the rollers. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

The racing produced two familiar winners. Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon) followed a Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) attack in the slop in the second lap and then escaped the field with another attack the next lap. She took a page out of teammate Mathieu van der Poel’s book and went solo for the second half of the race to capture her 101st career win.

Sanne Cant focuses before her winning ride. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Sanne Cant focuses before her winning ride. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Brand and Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek/Knight Composites) engaged in a battle for the second podium spot. Brand ultimately got the upper hand by winning the finishing sprint.

Lucinda Brand and Katie Compton battled for the second podium spot after Sanne Cant went solo off the front. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Lucinda Brand and Katie Compton battled for the second podium spot after Sanne Cant went solo off the front. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

In the Men’s race, Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) borrowed a page from Cant’s new playbook by going solo midway through the race. Van der Poel used his trademark blistering attack in the fourth lap to escape the field. The win was his 20th of the season.

Mathieu van der Poel celebrates his 20th win of the season. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Mathieu van der Poel celebrates his 20th win of the season. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Photographer Bart Hazen has been working as hard as the racers during the Kerstperiode. He again provided a gallery of images from the Elite races on Thursday. Enjoy this look at the Azencross racing from him.

Bart Hazen Photo Gallery: 2017 Azencross Loenhout

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The women stand at the ready to blast out for the holeshot. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

The women stand at the ready to blast out for the holeshot. 2017 Azencross Loenhout. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

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