The elite women’s start list for the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin reads like the list of the world rankings. Joining current world number one and cyclo-cross World Champion Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) for the opening of 16 rounds of World Cup competitions are all 10 riders following her in the UCI individual standings.
The 11 best female cyclo-cross athletes on the planet plus Olympic Games gold medallist in cross-country Jolanda Neff (Trek-Factory Racing), and seven-time cyclo-cross World Champion and Olympic gold medallist on the road Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) will be on the start line at 12:30 p.m. local time.
Brand already has a win in the bag, taking the Superprestige Gieten last weekend in the Netherlands. She opted not to compete in the first edition of the women’s Paris-Roubaix held on October 2 so she could focus on the upcoming cyclo-cross calendar.
“Last Sunday there were some riders there, but of course not everyone was there. It’s like everybody came over to the US to race,” Brand said.
“There are familiar names here, but I did not race Sunday against Kata Blanka Vas [Team SD Worx], who did an amazing season on the mountain bike and she jumped on the road bike, so I expect something from her. And of course, Marianne Vos did a fantastic Roubaix, and the week before she was very strong. These are names to watch also this Sunday.”
Brand is making her first appearance in the North American cyclo-cross rounds, and will also race the World Cups in Fayetteville, Arkansas on October 13 and Iowa City, Iowa on October 17. On the road, she competed at the Amgen Tour of California in 2016 and 2017, but she’s eager to ride a packed week with three races.
“So far what I can see it is very relaxed. Everybody knows each other, at least that is what I notice. Maybe it’s the nice weather or the set-up around the course. There is a good vibe. You can see that’s not only about riding fast and having results but making fun on your bike and I like that,” Brand said about her first experience in the states so far.
“The races are very important, and it makes it kind of easy because you don’t have to do so much in between. You just recover, prepare for the next one. My mind says I just want to enjoy and have fun. Of course, I am focused to do a good race, but I want to show off my World jersey now, the rainbow stripes, especially here [at Trek headquarters]. This one is maybe the most important one, and Wednesday to do a little bit of recon for the World Championships [in Fayetteville].
“It’s a dream to wear this jersey. I have been aiming for it for a few years. There was a lot of pressure. The whole season was already going very good and actually all eyes are on you. It was a big relief to finally take it all.”
She’s completed 43 race days on the road this season, and took a break after the 10-day Giro d’Italia Donne in July, having won the mountains classification. That break was a chance to finally train for ‘cross season.
“I think after the Giro, everything I did already with cyclo-cross season in mind. When I was at home, we tried to train for cyclo-cross in Belgium and I joined the team on a training camp. But then I did l’Ardeche and Road World Championships, and road was the main focus again. So it has only been since Wednesday that I have been on the cyclo-cross bike again.”
She’ll have Shirin Van Anrooij as a Baloise Trek Lions teammate in the women’s race. Van Anrooij is one of 13 riders in the elite race who are under-23 and won the world cyclo-cross title as a junior in 2020.
“She’s a teammate on the road as well, so we know each other very well. We’ve been racing the whole year together, basically. It’s nice to have another teammate there.”
Brand admitted she had an incredible season last year and it will be a challenge to defend the rainbow jersey at the end of the campaign.
“The main goal is to be a good representative as a world champion because it’s really hard to have such a great season like I had last year. If I compare, it may only disappoint,” Brand added.
“I have never been on the top step of the European Championships. It’s a goal. It’s in the Netherlands in a couple of weeks.”