World champion Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) put in a dominant display on a technical Namur course to win round 11 of the cyclo-cross World Cup.
The Dutch rider led from start to finish, and was chased throughout by Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) as both riders made mistakes on the treacherous course. Betsema was able to see her rival on the final lap but had to settle for second place, just 20 seconds behind.
Under-23 World Cup leader Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix) was a lone chaser in third for the whole race but had to see off a late challenge from teammate Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado and Fem Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal).
The Namur course suited the power of Brand with the 32-year-old making it four wins in as many years on the Belgium course.
“It’s really amazing, I really love this course,” said Brand.
“The conditions are always difficult and I have confidence as well. It’s so cool to win here for the fourth time. It was not easy and the off-camber really wasn’t my thing today and every time I came there a bit more tired.
“I knew I needed to do it (the off-camber section) well again but then it actually went worse. I then needed to ride somewhere else faster again so it was really challenging.
“At the beginning of the race I got a little gap but constantly it stayed the same and she (Betsema) came a bit closer.
“I took a few seconds again and then made a mistake. The pressure was high.”
Brand leads the overall World Cup series by 23 points from Betsema with four races remaining. The World Cup series resumes in Dendermonde on Boxing Day.
How it unfolded
After taking victory on a fast Rucphen course the previous day Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo–Visma) was absent in Namur as part of her training plan.
Starting on a tough cobbled climb the course featured a mixture of long climbs along with technical descents and a difficult off-camber section with the finish line next to the Citadel.
Fans were prevented from attending in Holland the previous day but returned to the Belgium course lining the steep banks and were four deep at the infamous off-camber decent section.
Sprinting straight away from the start, and up a grueling climb, World Cup leader Brand got off to a perfect start leading out along with French rider Hélene Clauzel (A.S. Bike Crossteam).
After narrowly missing out on the World Cup win in Rucphen the previous day Brand led the opening section from the front picking her lines through the technical section.
Fellow Dutch rider Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) was quick to respond and used her skills to ride a section that Brand ran to pull her rival back.
Under-23 World Cup leader Puck Pieterse (Alpecin - Fenix) has shown her technical skills already this season and used her ability on the steep descents to chase the leading duo.
At the front Brand was determined to hold a high pace which was too strong for Betsema entering the first full lap.
Betsema, who is Brand’s only rival in the overall series, was also struggling with the technical conditions crashing on several occasions.
Third-placed Pieterse and mountain bike specialist was able to ride some of the difficult sections but came down on a steep descent into the course netting falling to 32 seconds behind Brand.
By the end of the long opening lap, Brand had a gap of 14 seconds on Betsema while Pieterse was 30 seconds back from the leader and a large chasing group at 53 seconds.
At the front Brand was taking no risks on the technical descents but suffered problems with mud being stuck in her pedals as her gap over a chasing Betsema was reduced to eight seconds.
Teenager Pieterse was suffering on the powerful course losing time and sitting 43 seconds behind Brand after the second full gap with a group of eight riders closing in the battle for third.
After changing bikes Brand looked to stretch her gap again and led by 14 seconds over Betsema by the midway point despite having a slip while entering a steep run-up climb.
Dutch rider Brand had stretched her advantage on the penultimate lap before crashing on a technical off-camber allowing her rival to pull time back.
Taking the last lap bell Brand led by 21 seconds from Betsema while Pieterse was also fighting off her rivals behind for third.
After suffering crashes earlier in the race Fem Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) was leading the chase for fourth along with Clauzel and Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin - Fenix) and they sat 20 seconds behind Pieterse on the last lap.
At the head of the race, Betsema continued to apply pressure on Brand sitting 12 seconds back and could see her rival but wasn’t able to bridge the gap.
Brand kept control taking her 10th cyclo-cross win of the season finishing 20 seconds ahead of Brand.
In the battle for third Pieterse saw her gap reduced to 15 seconds by Van Empel who edged out Alvarado for fourth.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lucinda Brand (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions||0:53:07|
|2||Denise Betsema (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal||0:00:20|
|3||Puck Pieterse (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix||0:01:16|
|4||Fem van Empel (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal||0:01:31|
|5||Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix||0:01:34|
|6||Helene Clauzel (Fra) A.S Bike Crossteam||0:01:41|
|7||Inge van der Heijden (Ned) 777||0:01:49|
|8||Shirin van Anrooij (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions||0:01:53|
|9||Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar - Travel & Service||0:01:54|
|10||Maghalie Rochette (Can)||0:01:56|
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