Lucinda Brand takes win and a podium on a gritty weekend

Lucinda Brand now leads the Superprestige AND World Cup series standings

Lucinda Brand came out of a hard weekend with two major results: A win at the Merksplas Superprestige and third at the World Cup race in Koksijde. She now leads the Superprestige series outright, leap-frogging Denise Betsema in the standings by a one-point margin. She held onto her lead in the World Cup standings, which is now 14 points over Betsema.

Brand’s win in Merksplas was her fourth in a row, extending a streak that began when she won the European Championship on Nov. 6. She found herself with the lead on the first lap, and decided to keep her opponents chasing with a hard, metered effort. No one would gain her wheel. Brand beat second-place Annemarie Worst by 19 seconds, and third-place Betsema by 21. 

“I expected a course that was difficult to get rid of each other because it was super fast,” Brand said afterwards. “But suddenly I managed to get away on the first lap. Of course it cost some energy to get a gap and maintain it, but in the end it was a stable effort that was less hard than I expected. When you’re battling together in a group, and fighting for position and riding tactically, sometimes those short moments add up.”

Lucinda Brand battling through the sand in Koksijde.

The perks of finishing on a Belgian podium.

Worst and Betsema took their revenge the next day in Koksijde on a notoriously difficult course. Brand chased the pair as they battled through Koksijde’s deep, long sections of sand. She couldn’t find the momentum to climb back to their wheels, but she took a hard-fought podium spot.

“Koksijde is more dunes, and it’s up and down,” Brand said. “In practice it went good, but during the race I noticed it was hard to stay calm and relaxed, which is really important, because once you’re tense it’s harder to get through sand. And there I noticed that I still missed a little bit of experience with those technical skills.

Of course, coming in third is still a very good result, but I was hoping I could make it more of a battle instead of being constantly in the chase.”

Shirin van Anrooij heading towards a career result.

Shirin van Anrooij, Brand’s teammate, finished fourth, 12 seconds back of Brand and 49 seconds from the win, for her best elite World Cup performance to date. Perhaps even more importantly, Van Anrooij was the fastest among a strong group of U23 riders, finishing 37 seconds ahead of Fem van Empel and 1:05 ahead of Puck Pieterse.

Brand was happy to exit the weekend with two podiums.

“[The season] is just going super well,” Brand said. “I’m even leading both competitions right now, which is special. It shows how stable I am this season, which makes me proud, and I’m just hoping I can maintain that performance.”

Toon Aerts fighting the mucky sand.

Toon Aerts took third in the men’s race in Koksijde after dueling with eventual winner Eli Iserbyt for much of the race. The two went clear on the fifth of seven laps, but neither could shake the other until the last lap when Aerts’ momentum came to a halt on a sandy incline and he was forced to hop off his bike while Iserbyt rode away. 

Aerts took third by seven seconds to Iserbyt, while teammate Lars van der Haar took fifth at 17 seconds back. Aerts remains second in the World Cup standings, just one point ahead of Van der Haar, who is tied for third with Quinten Hermans.