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