A 1-2 Baloise Trek finish, and more from one last weekend before the biggest race of the year
Lucinda Brand is the cyclocross World Cup overall champion for the second year in a row.
She capped another incredible year on the World Cup circuit with a second place finish on the famous Hoogerheide course. Brand has finished first or second in 14 straight races, a streak that extends back to Nov. 27 (!). She has missed the top two steps of the podium just five times in 27 starts. Even with World Championships still to come, Brand’s season has been another for the ages.
However, to secure the rainbow jersey again, Brand will need to best Marianne Vos, who has beaten Brand five times this season, including again in Hoogerheide.
Sunday’s race was another classic duel between the two powerhouses. Brand and Vos drove a blistering pace to draw out an elite group of riders, and on the second to last lap, Brand attacked in the mud, hoping to solo to victory. Only Vos and U23 World Cup champion Puck Pieterse could follow. Then on the final lap, Vos attacked at the same spot and stayed away for good, while Brand outsprinted Pieterse for second, 10 seconds back of her Dutch archrival.
The result set up another potentially jaw-dropping battle this Saturday at World Championships in Fayetteville. Brand is the defending title holder, but she faces a stiff test against Vos, who has won six rainbow jerseys across a legendary career, and hasn’t put as much wear on her legs over the last three months.
The course in Fayetteville is a unique challenge, featuring lots of technical sections and a climb that hits 17 percent gradient. If conditions are dry, it’ll be a fast race with another nail-biting finish, where Brand and Vos will certainly be factors.
More from an excellent from an excellent weekend from Brand and the Baloise Trek Lions …
Brand and Shirin van Anrooij go 1-2 at X2O Trofee Flandriencross
Brand secured her 17th win of the season Saturday, confirming, with a bullet, that she is still a juggernaut on the cyclocross course. Brand currently leads the X2O Trofee and Superprestige series standings, putting her in position to potentially once again sweep all three of cyclocross’ major series competitions after World Championships.
Behind her, 19-year-old Lions teammate Shirin van Anrooij finished just 17 seconds back for second place after out-dueling Denise Betsema. Van Anrooij clawed her way up to Brand and Betsema in the lead group on the second-to-last lap, then muscled past Betsema to put the veteran on her back foot. Betsema caught Van Anrooij on the last lap, but Van Anrooij found another, higher gear in the closing 100 meters and beat Betsema by one second.
Van Anrooij has become a regular presence on or near elite podiums in the last month. She is part of an uber-talented group of U23 riders who have traded wins all season. Sunday’s U23 women’s World Championship race in Fayetteville could be the most exciting of the weekend as a result, and Van Anrooij is sure to weigh in on the proceedings.
Toon Aerts and Lars van der Haar each take second place
Toon Aerts and Lars van der Haar have wins on the mind as they head to Fayetteville. This past weekend’s results should give them an extra confidence boost.
Aerts took second at Flandriencross after finding himself in an elite foursome with Eli Iserbyt, Tom Pidcock and Laurens Sweeck at the start of the final lap. Pidcock was setting the pace when he slipped out on a slick corner. Aerts and Sweeck took advantage and went clear over the second half of the lap, setting up a heads up sprint. Sweeck just nicked Aerts at the line to secure the win.
The next day, Van der Haar also found himself in the lead group of four to start the final lap. Pidcock and Iserbyt were there once again, as well as Michael Vanthourenhout. Van der Haar overcame a crash earlier in the race to make his way back to the front in an exciting, chaotic race. Iserbyt jumped first in the closing straight, and that decisiveness gave him the win by just two seconds over Van der Haar and three seconds over Pidcock.
Both elite men’s races over the weekend featured heady decision-making and lots of lead changes, foreshadowing what should be an incredible elite men’s race in Fayetteville.