Lucinda Brand and Toon Aerts won the opening Superprestige race in Gieten
Anyone would have forgiven Lucinda Brand if she hadn’t been crisp in her first cyclocross race of the 2021-22 season. She was just coming off a long road season, which began hot on the tail of last year’s dream cyclocross season in which she won a World Championship along with World Cup, Superprestige and X2O Badkamers Trofee series. Some rust and fatigue was to be expected.
But Brand apparently needed no time getting used to her Boone again. On Sunday, she won her first cyclocross start of the new season by eight seconds over Denise Betsema in Gieten. The win gave her the early lead in the overall standings of the eight-race Superprestige series.
“Just a little bit of normal healthy tension,” Brand said about her pre-race nerves. “But I was confident I was going to ride a good race after I did the course recon. Not necessarily confident about winning, but I knew I was going to ride a good race.”
Brand rode a measured and opportunistic race to score her first win. Betsema was keen to test the rainbow jersey, going solo early and forcing Brand to chase on a muddy day. Brand didn’t catch Betsema until the second-to-last lap, but she would hold the lead for the rest of the race.
Betsema stayed within a puncher’s distance of Brand’s wheel, but couldn’t claw back the short gap despite an extraordinary effort. She took silver by 54 seconds over third-place Annemarie Worst.
Toon Aerts wins in Gieten for the second straight year
Toon Aerts wanted to start the 2021-22 season on a strong note. In Gieten, he made a statement.
When Quinten Hermans attacked from the lead group on the second of eight laps, Aerts was the only rider who could follow. They dueled for the rest of the race, while putting in distance to their chasers. Neither rider was able to gain a definitive edge until the second to last lap, when Aerts finally cracked his fellow Belgian rival and began pulling away.
Aerts crossed the line at 23 seconds ahead of Hermans, who beat third-place Eli Iserbyt by 39 seconds. Aerts also won in Gieten last year. At 1:38 and 1:43 back from Aerts, Baloise Trek teammates Lars van der Haar and Pim Ronhaar took fifth and sixth, respectively.
Aerts summed up his performance in a single word: “Amazing!”
“I tried to be in a good form from Gieten on and that worked out, so that makes me very happy,” Aerts said. “Plus the rain made the course in Gieten very muddy and heavy, my favourite conditions!”
Aerts has steadily found his legs over the last month, finishing seventh, then fifth, then third in consecutive Ethias Cross races. With the win on Sunday, he took the early lead in the Superprestige Series standings, which he won last year for the first time in his career.
Brand and Aerts head to Waterloo
Brand and Aerts are on their way to Waterloo, Wisconsin, where the opening race in the cyclocross World Cup will take place. For Brand, the race is an opportunity to set the tone for a title defense. For Aerts, who won the overall men’s World Cup in 2018-19 and 2019-20, it’s a chance to confirm his form and potentially put himself atop another major series.
Both riders are looking forward to visiting with Trek staff at headquarters.
“Returning to our home away from home in the U.S. always makes us feel good,” Aerts said. “We stay at the Trek HQ for the biggest part of the week and are happy to meet the people that developed our equipment.”
Brand concurred. She’ll be in the Waterloo for the first time since winning a World Championship: “Being able to show my rainbow jersey to the Trek Family is something I really look forward to!”
The atmosphere should be electric as a full-fledged cyclocross season hits its stride. Featuring two of the best riders in the sport competing in top form won’t hurt, either.