Lucinda Brand is one of the favourites to win the elite women’s world title on Saturday in what is expected to be one of the most exciting races of the 2019 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. The Dutch team is the strongest it’s been in recent years, with the likes of Marianne Vos, Annemarie Worst, and Denise Betsema all contenders for the rainbow jersey, and Brand says they're travelling to Denmark with nothing but good vibes.
"The Dutch have a really strong team that is going to the World Championships, and in a lot of categories, too," Brand told Cyclingnews.
"I think we have always had good riders in cyclo-cross in previous years but, with the women's team at the moment, the talent is really wide and at a high level in the Netherlands. There are more riders who can win a race."
Brand has been one of the nation's top performers this year, ranked third in the world after 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 Sanne Cant and Katie Compton. She had expressed her goals for the Bogense Worlds following her road season.
Vos, a seven-time world champion of cyclo-cross, has returned to top form after struggling with injuries and overtraining in recent years. She is currently second in the world rankings and she won the World Cup series after taking victories in Pont-Château, Heusden-Zolder, Bern and Waterloo.
The women's team also includes Worst and Betsema who are ranked fourth and fifth in the world, respectively, along with Maud Kaptheijns. Worst has stood on the podium at four World Cups this season. The Dutch also have the favourite for the elite men's race with Mathieu van der Poel and a strong contender for the under-23 women's race in Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado.
"Of course this is super nice and a good circumstance to be with so many people around you who are riding so well. It gives a good vibe to everybody, so let's hope that we can do well at the World Championships," Brand said.
Brand races primarily on the road but started taking cyclo-cross seriously three seasons ago. She has pointed to the world title as a career target but said that if she doesn't win this year, she would be happy with her success this season in the World Cup.
"I’ve had it in the back of my mind that it would be possible to fight for a world title, if I could gain all the cyclo-cross skills," Brand said. "After the first season, I felt that I had gotten better and better, and so it started to be a real goal for me.
"I will go full on Saturday for it, but we still need to see if it will work out on that course, as well. If it doesn’t work out, then I'm super happy with this season already and it stays a target for the coming years."
The Bogense course was part of the World Cup in 2017 where Cant won ahead of Helen Wyman and Kaitlin Keough. Brand did not participate in the race, and so the only information she has on the Worlds course is through what other riders have told her and by previewing a course map. She plans to see that course for the first time on Friday, the day before the championships race. She is expecting the weather to play the most significant factor in the women’s race.
"I don't know too much about the course yet," Brand said. "I didn't race on it last year and so I only know from what I have heard. The other riders have said that the course is flat and that there will be a lot of wind.
"It doesn't look too technical on the map. I'm sure the weather conditions will play a big role in this race. Whether the course is hard-packed or icy, the weather will be a main factor. I will recon the course on Friday and then I will see whether I can use my skills on this course."
Brand has had the most successful cyclo-cross season to date, but even though she has improved her skills and has shown her best form on the World Cup, she said luck plays a big part in a rider's success in cyclo-cross. While she can't prepare for cyclo-cross racing's unpredictability, she said she is ready in every other way to try and win the world title.
"I feel good and strong, and so I think I can say that I am in form," Brand said. "The last races have shown that the level of my racing is good enough, right now. Of course, cyclo-cross is not only about form, but I am ready to fight for the world title."
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