Tadej Pogačar lost his power meter after a crash early on at the Tour of Flanders

This photographer picked up Pogačar’s crashed Flanders head unit

Léon Van Bon was in the right place at the right time to recover a niche piece of cycling history.

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20km into Tadej Pogačar’s debut Tour of Flanders, disaster almost struck as he hit the deck in a low-speed crash. The rider who rarely ever falls, fell.

Ultimately, this incident had little bearing in the race. Pogačar sailed past the field on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, eventually dragging just Mathieu van der Poel clear. Pogačar looked in formidable form once more but the sprint for the finish ultimately ended in disappointment for the fourth-place Slovenian.

“I lost my SRM,” Pogačar said, reflecting after the race. “I didn’t have the head unit so I was relying on my radio and my sports director. In the end it was maybe even better without the numbers and maybe not so nervous.”

For one person, Pogačar’s soon-to-be-forgotten crash has become a memory by which he will always remember the 2022 De Ronde.

Léon Van Bon is a photographer who was working on the race. And like all good photographers, he was in the right place at exactly the right time.

“It was 20km into the race near Sint-Niklaas,” Van Bon said, speaking exclusively with CyclingTips. “Pogačar got squeezed in a bit because they had to go down to one lane and a few people crashed. He crashed and I saw the SRM power meter on the floor and recognised it was from him.”

Van Bon’s first instinct was to hand the head unit back take photos of the crash. And then try and hand the head unit back.

“I tried to give it to him but he had…well first I took some pictures and then I tried to give it to him…but he was busy with something else,” Van Bon explained. “Then he just took off.”

Instantly, his phone lit up with notifications.

“It was caught on television so I immediately get messages from friends saying ‘oh, you got the computer off Pogačar!'”

In the press room after returning from following the entire race out on the roads, Van Bon is sitting on one of the front desks, quietly uploading and editing the photographs he’s taken. Sitting casually in front of his laptop is the head unit of a two-time Tour de France winner.

Pogačar’s broken head unit

“I know his sports director, he’s an old team-mate of mine, so I said I’ve got the computer,” Van Bon said, although there’s little chance of Pogačar turning up to the press room to collect his belongings. “The team sent me an email now with a USP label to send it to them.”

Without a face-to-face meet, does he think the chances of a reward for recovering the lost item are slim?

“Well, I would like to have a portrait session with him or something, just for a few minutes,” he said. “That would be nice as a thank you.” Let’s make it happen UAE Team Emirates.

Léon Van Bon may be a familiar name to many, and that’s because he’s not your normal cycling photographer (although it’s hard to say any of them are exactly normal). Van Bon was a successful professional rider, winning two stages of the Tour de France, stages of the Vuelta a España, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, as well as a bronze medal at the 1997 Road World Championships. How does a member of the peloton end up sitting on the other side of the aisle?

“You’ve got to do something, right?” Van Bon jokes. “No no no. When I was young I was interested in photography but then I got a career in pro cycling and it all went to the back of my mind.

“Then when my eldest daughter was born I bought a camera just to capture that. Before I ended my career I had a photo studio ready at home to see if cycling photography was something for me and I really love it.”

It’s very nice,” he continued, about still being involved with the sport. “I like the world of cycling. But it’s still a bit weird to imagine that I was on the other side because it feels very different.”

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