Sanne Cant (Belgium) sprinted to her third European Cyclo-cross Championships victory in Tábor after a close-fought race. Her win makes it the second year in a row that the reigning world champion has gone on to capture the European title.
"I'm very, very happy," Cant said after the race. "It was a hard race with the attacks uphill; the course was very heavy because it's so fast.
"I had a lot of problems with my health the last few weeks. This is my third win of the season so I hope it goes better and better now and I can win some more races. Now I'm going to enjoy this one."
The quick course, consisting of dry grass and mud, has a long history in cyclo-cross at this level. Tábor hosted a World Cup race up until 2013, and has also hosted three World Championships, the last of which was held in 2015 and saw Cant take silver.
A quick start from the Dutch team saw the front of the peloton fracture early on, with Cant, Brand and Annemarie Worst (Netherlands) the major beneficiaries. The trio opened a gap on lap one, while Maud Kaptheijns (Netherlands), Ellen Van Loy (Belgium) and the Italians Arzuffi and Eva Lechner led the chase.
Rather surprisingly, it was the closest Kaptheijns would get to the lead. The Dutchwoman has enjoyed a blazing start to the season, winning a round of the World Cup as well as sweeping the opening four Superprestige rounds.
Instead it was Arzuffi who took the initiative from the chase group, bridging over the eight-second gap on lap two and making it a leading foursome. As the Italian got across, Worst looked in trouble and was soon dropped, leaving what would turn out to be the final podium at the front of the race.
Over the three remaining laps it was game of cat and mouse, and attack and counter-attack between Cant, Brand and Arzuffi. Each woman spent time on the front and off the back, as Worst, Kaptheijns and the rest disappeared from sight.
The final lap saw Brand fall into trouble on an early technical section, but Arzuffi's pace proved to be a bluff. After Brand caught back on midway through the lap, she and Cant attacked the climb after the barriers, distancing the Italian for good.
After that it was a battle for prime position in the final sprint. Cant diligently stuck to Brand's wheel in the closing stages, conserving just enough energy to power past around the final corner and take the white-and-blue banded jersey on the line.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Sanne Cant (Belgium)||0:41:57|
|2||Lucinda Brand (Netherlands)|
|3||Alice Arzuffi (Italy)||0:00:15|
|4||Annemarie Worst (Netherlands)||0:00:45|
|5||Maud Kaptheijns (Netherlands)||0:01:06|
|6||Eva Lechner (Italy||0:01:10|
|7||Ellen Van Loy (Belgium)||0:01:25|
|8||Helen Wyman (Great Britain)||0:01:32|
|9||Denise Betsema (Netherlands)||0:01:34|
|10||Pavla Havlíková (Czech Republic)||0:01:40|
|11||Karla Štepánová (Czech Republic)|
|12||Nikki Brammeier (Great Britain)||0:01:54|
|13||Loes Sels (Belgium)||0:02:12|
|14||Joyce Vanderbeken (Belgium)||0:02:33|
|15||Jasmin Egger-Achermann (Switzerland)||0:02:44|
|16||Lucie Chainel (France)||0:02:59|
|17||Geerte Hoeke (Netherlands)||0:03:09|
|18||Ida Erngren (Sweden)||0:03:13|
|19||Jolien Verschueren (Belgium)||0:03:42|
|20||Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia)||0:04:18|
|21||Vendula Kuntová (Czech Republic)||0:04:26|
|22||Hannah Payton (Great Britain)|
|23||Stefanie Paul (Germany)||0:04:58|
|24||Magdalena Sadlecka (Poland)||0:05:12|
|25||Tatiana Jaseková (Slovakia)||0:05:41|
|26||Martina Mikulášková (Czech Republic)||0:06:27|