Lucinda Brand takes World Championships silver in duel for the ages

How Lucinda Brand's epic battle with Marianne Vos unfolded

Lucinda Brand and Marianne Vos gave us a World Championship race for the ages. Entering the race, we expected the two cyclocross giants to battle out the win, but we couldn’t anticipate how dominating they would be, nor how tensely the race would unfold.

Vos won her eighth world championship by out-sprinting Brand to the line. Brand followed up her 2021 World Championship with a silver medal, giving her another standout result in an excellent season. Though the Baloise Trek rider didn’t get a repeat title, there’s no question she gave an effort to be proud of. 

“I can be happy with it because I did everything I could to try to race for the victory,” Brand said after the race. “I didn’t dare to lose, so I think I need to be proud of that. And next to that, I had an amazing season, so I should not forget that.”

Lucinda Brand leading out Marianne Vos.

Brand pushed the pace from the start of the race, stringing riders out through the early turns of the course. Vos stumbled on a particularly tight bend, forcing her to chase early.

A lead group of Brand, Vos and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado quickly coalesced, however, setting the tone for the rest of the race. By the start of Lap 3, Brand and Vos had begun distancing Alvarado — with Vos on Brand’s wheel — and the two only put more time into the rest of the pack over the final five laps.

Vos stayed on Brand’s wheel through nearly four full laps, much to Brand’s consternation. On a fast course like Fayetteville, the energy savings from draft could be significant. Near the end of the lap, Brand finally was able to get Vos to take over the workload with clever move, going wide around a bend as Vos stayed on an inside trajectory.

Over the final three laps, both riders tried to shake each other, to no avail. Neither Brand nor Vos was willing to concede an inch of daylight. Brand took the lead back on the back half descent of the sixth lap, but could break the elastic to Vos. Then Vos accelerated on a steep climb just before the pits, but Brand quickly matched her stroke for stroke.

“On the climb, I changed into a different person and I wasn’t going to get dropped,” Brand said. “I just did everything to keep the wheel.”

The two riders attacked at the same points on the last lap, and again neutralized each other’s moves. The race came down to the final twisty bends of the course, where a cat-and-mouse game took place with Brand slowing down in hopes of ushering Vos to the front. Vos, a renowned sprinter, refused to give up a beneficial position, giving Brand no choice but to jump first and hope she could outlast her Dutch rival.

As countless others who have faced Vos know, Brand was in an unenviable position.

“We both knew the second position for the sprint was the best position, and maybe even more for me because my sprint isn’t as good as Marianne’s,” Brand said. “I tried to get her in front, but of course she’s also smart enough to stay in second position. At a certain point, I also thought if she chose to take the lead, then she would have 3-4 meters on me because she’s so explosive.”

An epic battle that kept everyone on the edge of their seat.

Lucinda Brand powering her way to a silver medal.

Vos pipped Brand on the straight finish to the line to cap off a thrilling race. Italian Silvia Persico took third at 51 seconds back.

Though disappointed she didn’t get the win Saturday, Brand has had an outstanding season. She extended a streak of finishing first or second to 15 races, stretching back to Nov. 27. On the year, she has 17 wins, and is in position to win all three of cyclocross’ major series. Brand has already won the World Cup overall, and currently leads the Superprestige and X2O Trofee series standings with just a handful of races remaining.

“It’s not all about the race today,” Brand said. “Of course it’s something you see the rest of the season, but all the other victories I should not forget because those are very impressive as well.”

Brand showcased everything that makes her one of the most dominant riders in the world right now. We’ll remember this race, and this season, for a long, long time.

Thibau Nys warming up ahead of the men's U23 race.

Thibau Nys celebrating a bronze medal at the U23 World Cyclocross Championships in January.

Thibau Nys completes Belgian U23 men's podium sweep

The men’s Under-23 race was dominated by brilliant tactical riding by the Belgian squad. Joran Wyseure won with an early solo move that held the Dutch chasers at bay. Emiel Verstrynge took second by breaking free late after a race spent on the wheel of the Netherlands’ Mees Hendrikx. Thibau Nys then took third after an impressive heads up sprint against Hendrikx and Great Britain’s Cameron Mason.

Nys, the former junior world champion, rode an intelligent race to take a U23 medal at a young 19 years old. The standout result caps an impressive January. He began 2022 with a three-race win streak to cap an intense holiday racing period.

Nys’ Baloise Trek teammate Pim Ronhaar took eighth on the day. Though the 2021 U23 world champion was likely hoping for better, Ronhaar can be proud of a season that includes three wins and eight podium finishes.