Lucinda Brand (Trek Baloise Lions) claimed her second UCI Cyclocross World Cup in the space of a week after she soloed to a resounding victory in Flamanville. Marie Schreiber (SD Worx) rode strongly to place second, while Leonie Bentveld (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) rounded out the podium in third.
Schreiber made a trademark fast start, powering to the front on the opening lap, while Brand was a little slower off the mark after struggling to clip into her pedal as the race got underway. Bentveld and her teammate Denise Betsema joined Schreiber at the front midway through the first lap, but Brand was also quickly up to speed and moving her way through the field.
By the end of the first lap, Schreiber was still in front, but Brand and Betsema were just four seconds behind the Luxembourger.
The second lap would prove the turning point of the race as Brand shed Bestema et al and set out in lone pursuit of Schreiber, who to that point had been dismounting less than her pursuers and opening her advantage accordingly.
When Schreiber slid on a particularly muddy section, however, Brand managed to close the gap, immediately hitting the front and upping the pace. Schreiber resisted the first onslaught but she soon realised that Brand was able to travel to places she couldn’t quite reach.
After two laps, Brand had a lead of 13 seconds, and she extended that buffer to 24 seconds by the end of the third. From there, it was a matter of staying upright, and the Dutchwoman made light of a late skid on the final lap to come home 20 seconds clear of Schreiber.
Before the start, Brand suggested that she wasn’t in quite the same form that had carried her to victory in Dublin last Sunday, but it was enough to claim victory in a race where World Cup leader Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, world champion Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse were among the absentees.
“I didn’t feel like last week, but my legs were still good enough,” Brand said. “I missed my pedal at the start and I made a few mistakes in the first lap, so it was hard to find my position. I had to stay patient and find a good moment to move up, but luckily I had a good position.”
Although Alvarado still leads the overall standings at the World Cup, Brand has cut her lead to 39 points. She will hope to progress further in the series during the hectic period of racing ahead. “It’s good position to be in the overall for the World Cup coming into the Christmas period,” she said.
Behind Brand, Schreiber and Bentveld claimed the first elite World Cup podium spots of their careers. Schreiber was full value for her second place after another fine start, but she explained afterwards that she had subtly adjusted her approach to the opening phase of races after repeatedly paying a heavy price for that kind of enthusiasm last season.
“I think I went a bit less hard in the first lap than I used to, because I used to be over-motivated,” Schreiber said. “Now I see I can get quick off the line then hold back a bit in the first lap to keep the energy for later in the race.”
That approach, she acknowledged, still had limits against Brand’s strength here. “When Lucinda came, I knew I couldn’t follow, so I tried to concentrate on myself,” Schreiber said. “But it’s still amazing, to be honest, because my goal for this season was to get one elite World Cup podium.”
Schreiber’s thoughts were echoed by Bentveld, who spent much of the race locked in battle with her teammate Betsema and Annemarie Worst before taking firm command of third place in the finale.
“I was very surprised to get on the elite podium because I was racing with the Under-23 jersey in mind,” said Bentveld, who raced cautiously to secure her podium spot on the last lap. “I was already a bit too happy with third spot, so I raced safe to get points for the U23 classification.”
Betsema finished in fourth place, while Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise Trek Lions) claimed fifth place after a remarkable late surge. The Dutchwoman was caught at the very back of the pack at the outset, but she worked her way through the field with considerable elan as the race progressed, and she will draw encouragement from her rapid finish here.
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