Lucinda Brand was the one of the favourites of a long list of contenders fielded by the Dutch national team for Saturday's elite women's race at the 2019 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Bogense, Denmark. However, a late-race crash in the bike-change pits – accidentally caused by her father who was working as a team mechanic – may have cost her the world title. Belgium's Sanne Cant executed a flawless race to win her third consecutive rainbow jersey, while Brand finished second, nine seconds back.
"My father grabbed my bike from my hands just a second too early, but my foot was still stuck in. Then I was pulled down, but I will have to forgive him, otherwise we will not be able to sit down together during Christmas," Brand told Sporza. "Of course, he didn't do it on purspose."
Brand is ranked third in the world after commanding World Cup victories in Hoogerheide, Namur and Tabor. She also won the Dutch Championships, Druivencross and Azencross. She place third at the Worlds last year behind Cant and Katie Compton, and was aiming to fight for the world title in Bognese.
Brand certainly put forth a fighting performance, and at times looked like the strongest rider on the day, but she struggled skills-wise from the beginning, with a slower start, bobbles through the slick and off-camber sections, and multiple crashes. After each mishap, she powered back to regain the race lead, but one final blow, a crash in the mechanic's pit during on the penultimate lap, combined with the impeccable performance given by rival Cant, were what arguably cost the Dutchwoman a shot at the title.
"In the first round I slipped away, but I was not immediately concerned about that," Brand said of her struggle at the start of the race. "Maybe I made a tactical mistake by immediately joining Jolanda Neff, but I felt I was in control."
Neff, a former mountain bike world champion who started on the fourth row in Bogense, blasted toward the front of the race within one lap. She was in good company, as Brand was also working her way to the front, where her Dutch teammates – Denise Betsema, Annemarie Worst and Marianne Vos – were assuming control of the race.
Each time a Dutch rider accelerated, Cant responded, biding her time before finding the perfect moment to make her winning move. That move came earlier than even she had expected. With two laps to go, Cant pushed a pace that left the Dutch team faltering behind. Despite her struggles on the course, Brand was there in the late stages of the race, along with Vos, to give the Dutch team a chance at the world title.
Even after the final crash in the mechanics pit, Brand looked like she might be able to close down the five-second margin that had opened up to Cant on the powerful straightaway sections through the last lap. Catching Cant became impossible, however, once the race hit the off-camber and technical muddy sections near the end of the lap, as the Belgian excels on such terrain.
"I came closer, but that's not enough," Brand said.
In an interview ahead of the World Championships, Brand told Cyclingnews that even if she didn't win the world title this year, she could be happy with her overall season's success, and that she would focus on a world title in the future. She reiterated those comments in a team press release.
"It’s been a good season, plus I've had some really beautiful wins, wins that I didn't expect at all. Of course I was wishing for more but at the end of the day, I'm the second best in the world, that's good right?"