Dutch ace Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash) easily worked her way to the win in sunny Zonhoven, Belgium, during the second round of the Superprestige Series. On the dry, sandy course Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea) held off Van Paassen’s teammate, surprisingly strong Sabrine Stultiens (Brainwash), for second. The winner of the first round in Ruddervoorde, Helen Wyman (Kona), wasn’t present in Zonhoven.
Instead of saving her legs for Tuesday’s big race up and around the famous Koppenberg, Van Paassen opted to test her legs in the sand of Zonhoven, with half an eye on the World Championships in sandy Koksijde. “I want to use every opportunity to ride in the sand this season and this was an ideal opportunity to practice riding at high speed through the sand. It was good because every lap I was going better and I managed to ride further through some sand sections,” Van Paassen said.
In absence of strong riders like Marianne Vos, Katherine Compton, Katerina Nash and Daphny van den Brand it was up to Van Paassen to lead the race. In the first lap it was Pavla Havlikova (Telenet-Fidea) who led the pack through the sand quarry and the moorland of Zonhoven. Van Paassen stormed forward during the second passage of the sand quarry. Reza Hormes-Ravenstein was unable to hold her wheel and off went Van Paassen.
Behind her the Telenet-Fidea women tried to organize the chase, first with Sophie de Boer and later with Harris. By the end of the second lap Van Paassen had fifteen seconds on seven chasers: Harris, De Boer, Havlikova, Sanne Cant, Stultiens and Amy Dombroski.
While Harris tried to come back on Van Paassen she was showing the signs of a crash with some bruises on her arm and loose tape on her handlebars. “I crashed during the first passage and someone rode into my arm with a wheel. I needed some time to recover from that and by that time Sanne was gone,” Harris told Cyclingnews.
Van Paassen bobbled during the third passage of the sand quarry. In the steep downhill she lost control of her bike and ate sand. Behind her Harris stormed forward with Stultiens playing the perfect teammate for Van Paassen. The duo did return to seven seconds from the leader but closing the gap on the demanding course wasn’t possible.
Behind the first chasers Sanne Cant (Boxx), Linda van Reijen (Skil) and Havlikova battled for fourth place while De Boer crashed hard and pulled out of the race. In the end Van Reijen dropped back while Cant got going better every lap. “I underestimated the amount of running because I didn’t take into account that you can only ride through the sand if you have the space up front,” Cant explained.
Meanwhile Van Paassen kept the first chasers at a safe distance and at the finish line she had 12 seconds on Harris and 15 seconds on team-mate Stultiens. “There were no big names here so I had to win,” Van Paassen said. “Probably the other women want to conserve energy for the big classic on Tuesday at the Koppenberg. It’s a race I want to win as well so I made sure I won but I did try to ride conservatively.”
Harris distanced Stultiens in the last lap but the latter didn’t mind as she was in heaven with her podium result. Before this race her best placing was twelfth and consequently she was thrilled. “This comes quite unexpectedly. Before the start I was really nervous but I got away smooth and that helped a lot at the sand quarry. Once up front my running went great and I’m delighted with the outcome of the race,” Stultiens said.
British rider Nikki Harris pleased her team manager and race organizer Hans van Kasteren by featuring on the podium. “It’s good to have one of us on the podium today. Last week I was sick during the World Cup round so this result is a boost for the morale,” Harris said.
Belgian champion Cant won the battle for fourth place ahead of Havlikova, Van Rijen and Hormes-Ravenstijn. British rider Gabriella Day (Renner Custom Cyclocross Team) was eighth with a good gap on US rider Dombroski (Crankbrothers Race Club) and Hilde Quintens.
|1||Sanne van Paassen (Ned) Brainwash||0:43:02|
|2||Nikki Harris (GBr) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:00:12|
|3||Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Brainwash||0:00:15|
|4||Sanne Cant (Bel) BOXX Veldritacademie|
|5||Pavla Havlikova (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:00:38|
|6||Linda van Rijen (Ned) Skil||0:01:12|
|7||Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team||0:01:17|
|8||Gabriella Day (GBr) Renner Custom Cyclocross Team||0:01:35|
|9||Amy Dombroski (USA) Crankbrothers Race Club||0:02:06|
|10||Hilde Quintens (Bel) Van Goethem - Prorace Cycling Team|
|11||Joyce Vanderbeken (Bel) Cycling Team Vermeeren|
|12||Ellen Van Loy (Bel) Kriekel Cycling Team Tessenderlo|
|13||Arenda Grimberg (Ned)||0:03:03|
|14||Nicole De Bie-Leyten (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team|
|15||Annefleur Kalvenhaar (Ned)||0:04:33|
|16||Nancy Bober (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team|
|17||Martina Mikulaskova (Cze) Simunek Cycling Project||0:05:10|
|18||Nikoline Hansen (Den) Bov CC-Denmark||0:05:29|
|19||Ilona Meter (Ned)||0:05:58|
|20||Evy Kuijpers (Ned)||0:06:20|
|21||Iris Ockeloen (Ned)||0:07:04|
|22||Katrien Thijs (Bel) K. Edegem Bicycle Club - BMX R|
|-1lap||Margriet Kloppenburg (Den)|
|-1lap||Lisa Schaub (Ger)|
|DNF||Sophie de Boer (Ned) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team|
|DNF||Christine Vardaros (USA) Baboco|
|DNF||Maaike Lanssens (Bel)|