An incredible women’s race welcomed World Cup cyclocross back to Waterloo

Sunday's stacked women's field produced a race to match its accolades

Sunday’s women’s World Cup race in Waterloo showcased the fastest women in the sport. Three riders — Marianne Vos, Lucinda Brand and Jolanda Neff — had a combined 11 World Championships and Olympic Golds across multiple disciplines. And on a gray day, with the rain barely holding off, conditions were perfect for a blisteringly fast race and a superb finish.

Vos barely edged past defending cyclocross World Champion Lucinda Brand on the final turn of a twisty course at Trek Bicycle headquarters to take the win by two seconds. Denise Betsema finished third just one second back of Brand to complete a high-powered podium. Tokyo XC mountain bike Olympic champion Jolanda Neff took fourth, 19 seconds back of Vos, after fighting her way up to the front from a last row start.

Lucinda Brand ready to go at the start line.

Jolanda Neff grinding her way to the front of the field.

The riders put on a good show for an animated crowd at the first Trek CX Cup weekend in Waterloo since 2019. By the start of Lap 2 of 6, the primary characters were established: Betsema led a group of four that included Vos, Brand and a fourth Dutch favorite in Annemarie Worst. Betsema tried to create a gap, but Brand and Vos pedaled back patiently and eventually slowed the race down. 

The lead group swelled to seven riders on Lap 3, then Brand decided to make her first big attack of the race. Betsema appeared to have some mechanical trouble on a climb, and Brand gave an acceleration that only Vos was able to follow. Brand would lead Vos into Lap 4, with Worst and Kata Blanka Vas trying to close the gap behind.

The soundtrack was immaculate.

A legendary lead group of riders.

After establishing themselves as heavy hitters, Brand and Vos were joined again by Worst, Vas, Betsema and Hélene Clauzel once again. Neff joined the group later in the lap after passing more than three dozen riders, then made a show of force herself by crossing the line into Lap 5 in first.

Sensing complacency again, Brand accelerated early in Lap 5, and this time there wasn’t a quick answer. Neff and Vos were the only threatening chasers, then Neff fell off as Vos made contact again with Brand, setting up a fierce duel going into the final lap.

Maddie Munro, just 19, finished 25th.

We're excited that cyclocross is back, too.

Neff and Betsema fought back to the leading duo. Neff would drop off the pace late in the lap to cement the final podium, but the final placings weren’t decided until the very last turn. Brand and Vos were nearly side by side as they battled for positioning, and Vos narrowly squeezed between Brand and the barrier to make the final, decisive pass.

Vos punched her fist in celebration as she completed her final pedal strokes past the line, then collapsed off her bike. Brand looked similarly spent. They will see each other again (as well as Betsema and Neff, who earned a front row start) in Fayetteville, Ark., this Wednesday, and again in Iowa City next Sunday.

Those races will be must-watch events after the first World Cup race on American soil in two years lived up to the hype of its star-studded cast. There was no better place to welcome cyclocross’ return than a dreary Sunday in Waterloo.

Lars van der Haar fighting every step of the way.

Pim Ronhaar was one of the top U23 finishers in the men's field.

Lars van der Haar takes fourth for the Baloise Trek men

Unlike the women’s World Cup race, the men’s race was decided relatively easily after an early crash. Eli Iserbyt rode away for the win, beating Michael Vantourenhout by 30 seconds.

Lars van der Haar was the top-placed Baloise Trek rider with a strong, largely solo, ride within a strung-out field to finish fourth. He has yet to finish outside the top 5 in any race this season.

Teammate Toon Aerts, who was coming off a Superprestige win in Gieten, was caught up in the Lap 1 crash, and fought hard through the crowd to finish sixth. Thijs Aerts finished 15th, and 20-year-old Pim Ronhaar, the defending U23 World Champion, finished 19th.