Betsema solos to victory at World Cup Zonhoven

Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) mastered the sand dunes of Zonhoven to clinch her first World Cup win of the season at round four of the series. 

The Dutch rider was pushed all the way by world champion Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) but used her skills to pull out a winning gap of 46 seconds. It was Betsema’s second win during a warm weekend in Belgium after also soloing to victory at the Superprestige round in Ruddervoorde the previous day.  

European champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix) worked her way back from a third row start to catch teammate Puck Pieterse on the final lap and pass the youngster to take third, 1:08 down on Betsema.

Betsema took the World Cup lead off the hands of Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) who was absent due to taking a break in racing. It will be the first time the 28-year-old from Texel has worn the overall series leader’s white jersey when the series continues next Sunday in Overijse. 

"I'm very happy. The white jersey was never there for me so I'm really enjoying it for the next race. It is one of my favourite courses so to win here is so cool," Betsema said.

"It's a difficult course to recover from because the straights are really technical. So I had to go deep. But it is super nice to take the victory here. That was my goal for today.

"The form is good, so on to the European Championships."

After placing fifth the previous day in the Superprestige round in Ruddervoorde, Brand was 'satisfied' to return to the podium with her second place. 

"I'm definitely satisfied today," Brand added. "If I look back at yesterday [in Ruddervoorde] I have to be happy just fighting for a podium. I had a good start which made it a bit easier for me today. 

"That made sure I could find my rhythm. Denise was the best today and took advantage every lap, she deserved the win today."

How it unfolded

The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup returned to Europe and Belgium on Sunday for the fourth round following the opening three races in America. 

Leading the way on the asphalt start was French rider Hélene Clauzel (AS Bike Crossteam) who led into the tight switchbacks which were taken quickly on a warm afternoon in Belgium. She was quickly overtaken and 19-year-old Pieterse used her skills on the difficult sandy terrain, putting pressure on the front and stringing out the field on the opening lap.

After missing the opening three World Cup rounds due to illness European Champion Alvarado started 19th on the grid and had to battle her way through the field. 

After winning the Superprestige round in Ruddervoorde the previous day, Betsema joined Pieterse and forced the second-lap pace with Brand just six seconds back. Meanwhile, Alvarado had used her mountain bike skills to ride one of the sandy climbs and moved herself back up into seventh but was still 30 seconds back. 

Betsema was keen to ride alone at the head of proceedings and powered up the steep climbs and gapped youngster Pieterse before the mid-way point.  Brand kept her pace consistent in the chase behind and clawed herself back up to Pieterse by using her running skills to close the gap on the steep and sandy climbs 20 seconds behind the lone leader. 

Behind, Alvarado continued to work her way through the field pulling herself back to under-23 world champion Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) in fourth place. World champion Brand was too strong for her young rival Pieterse and pulled clear in second place continuing her pursuit of Betsema with three laps to go. 

Searching for her first World Cup win of the season and third in her career Betsema continued to master the sand dunes and pulled her gap out to 26 seconds ahead of lone chaser Brand. 

Further back, Alvarado was chasing a podium position, she had charged clear of Van Empel and was in pursuit of Pieterse. Taking the bell, Betsema had a 38-second advantage over Brand while Pieterse was just six seconds clear of a determined Alvarado in the battle for third. 

Alvarado used her mountain bike skills to fly down the 'De Kuil' sand dune descent and closed the gap to team-mate Pieterse. After running back up the sand dune Alvarado mounted her bike ahead of Pieterse before distancing her young rival with an attack up the following climb.

Betsema was the clear winner and had time to celebrate ahead of Brand while Alvarado snatched the final podium place from teammate Pieterse.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Denise Betsema (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:47:44
2Lucinda Brand (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions 0:00:46
3Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix 0:01:08
4Puck Pieterse (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix 0:01:20
5Fem van Empel (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:01:35
6Shirin van Anrooij (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions 0:01:36
7Inge van der Heijden (Ned) 777 0:02:14
8Line Burquier (Fra) A.S. Bike Crossteam 0:02:20
9Yara Kastelijn (Ned) IKO - Crelan 0:02:46
10Alice Maria Arzuffi (Ita) 0:02:57
11Aniek van Alphen (Ned) 777 0:03:18
12Eva Lechner (Ita) 0:03:35
13Alicia Franck (Bel) Proximus - Alphamotorhomes - Doltcini CT 0:03:43
14Manon Bakker (Ned) IKO - Crelan 0:03:45
15Silvia Persico (Ita) 0:03:46
16Hélène Clauzel (Fra) A.S. Bike Crossteam 0:04:02
17Perrine Clauzel (Fra) A.S. Bike Crossteam 0:04:30
18Marthe Truyen (Bel) IKO - Crelan 0:04:43
19Maud Kaptheijns (Ned) CX Team Deschacht-group Hens-containers Maes 0:04:57
20Zoe Backstedt (GBr) 0:05:03
21Olivia Onesti (Fra) Starcasino CX Team 0:05:18
22Rebecca Gariboldi (Ita) 0:05:35
23Suzanne Verhoeven (Bel) 0:05:54
24Sanne Cant (Bel) IKO - Crelan 0:06:00
25Mie Bjørndal Ottestad (Nor) 0:06:17
26Lucia Gonzalez Blanco (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team 0:06:21
27Marion Norbert Riberolle (Bel) Starcasino CX Team 0:06:58
28Ellen Van Loy (Bel)
29Millie Couzens (GBr)
30Lucia Bramati (Ita)
31Zina Barhoumi (Swi)
32Isa Nomden (Ned)
33Karen Verhestraeten (Bel) IKO - Crelan
34Marie Schreiber (Lux) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team
35Amira Mellor (GBr) Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus
36Jinse Peeters (Bel) Proximus - Alphamotorhomes - Doltcini CT
37Kiona Crabbé (Bel)
38Lauriane Duraffourg (Fra) A.S. Bike Crossteam
39Julia Kopecky (Cze)
40Chiara Teocchi (Ita) Trinity Racing
41Julie Brouwers (Bel)
42Katharina Julia Hinz (Ger)
43Clea Seidel (Ger)
44Xan Crees (GBr) Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus
45Camille Devigne (Fra)
46Sterre Vervloet (Bel)
47Rebecca Gross (USA)
48Corey Coogan Cisek (USA) VeloRevolution WPcycles
DNFLaura Verdonschot (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal

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