Lucinda Brand conquers sand to win in Mol

Lucinda Brand's win was strong prep for the World Championships in Oostende

The annual Zilvermeercross race in Mol is traditionally low key compared to cyclocross’ major series races. That was true this year, with current World Champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado opting to sit out. But the other heavy hitters of women’s cyclocross took the line, including Baloise Trek’s Lucinda Brand, who scored her 11th win of the 2020-21 season just two weeks ahead of the 2021 Cyclocross World Championships in Oostende.

The sandy course in Mol was good preparation for a similar profile in Oostende. Fellow Dutchwoman and World Championship hopeful Denise Betsema did the most to animate the race, setting a fast pace from the start that forced Brand to chase along with Yara Kastelijn and Marianne Vos. Brand would pull away from the group to come even with Betsema heading into the final lap. Then Brand used a final stretch of sand to pry open a gap and cross the line just four seconds ahead of Betsema.

Vos finished in third at 29 seconds back for Brand. She was followed by Manon Bakker (45 seconds) and Kastelijn (53 seconds).

A red-hot Lucinda Brand is tearing up the cyclocross world.

Brand’s strength in the sand is a good sign for the World Championships, which will take place in the coastal town of Oostende from Jan. 30-31. The 2,900-meter course to determine this year’s Rainbow Jersey wearer features 565 meters of beach that will test every muscle in riders’ legs. Brand, who has yet to finish off the podium in 21 races this year, is a favorite to win in large part because of her uncommon power.

Before the World Championships, there is one more big weekend of racing. This Saturday, riders will head to a X2O Badkamers Trofee race in Hamme, followed by a World Cup race Overijse on Sunday. Brand has already won the World Cup series regardless of Sunday’s result, but can expand her 58-second lead over Betsema in the X2O Trofee series standings with three races left.

Lars van der Haar battling through the sand to a podium finish.

Lars van der Haar gets back on the podium

Lars van der Haar accelerated out of a chasing group to take third place in Mol as snow fell on the riders. He finished just four seconds behind Laurens Sweeck, who fought to keep up with eventual winner Wout van Aert at the front of the race before falling off the Belgian champion’s wheel.

The podium finish was Van der Haar’s seventh of the season, and second since taking third at the Superprestige series race in Heusden-Zolder on Dec. 26.

The men’s race was missing several big names, including Mathieu van der Poel and Baloise Trek’s own Toon Aerts, but the result was impressive nonetheless for Van der Haar. Van Aert quickly took the lead in the race, pulling only Sweeck with him, but the chasing group of Van der Haar, David van der Poel and Daan Soete was game. Van der Haar pulled away from Van der Poel before the final lap, and nearly powered his way to a silver medal while finishing 22 seconds ahead of fourth place.