Lucinda Brand took over as the World Cup overall leader with an iron effort
Torrential rain hit Fayetteville just before the start of Wednesday’s cyclocross World Cup race in Fayetteville, creating a battle of attrition from the gun. And at the end of six laps, Lucinda Brand was all alone, taking her first World Cup win of the season by nine seconds over Denise Betsema, and 16 seconds over Clara Honsinger.
“What a fight it was,” Brand said after the race. “The weather changed everything just before the race.”
Until the final lap, Brand traded blows with Marianne Vos at the front, setting up what seemed to be another 1-2 podium finish. Last Sunday, Vos pipped Brand on the final turn at the World Cup opener in Waterloo in a fast-paced thriller.
The two riders distanced themselves from the pack on Lap 2, and marked each other from there, pouncing on each other’s mistakes. Brand was the first to flinch when she slipped around a tight 180-degree bend, and was forced to burn a match chasing back to Vos’ wheel.
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A flat tire for Vos helped Brand make the catch. Back together, Brand began putting the hurt to Vos. Then on the final lap, she took advantage of Vos’ own slip. On a short, steep descent, Vos fell, giving Brand a lead that she wouldn’t relinquish.
“I just thought I’d keep my rhythm, my tempo, and if it’s my day and I’m stronger, then I’ll just catch up with her. And if she’s the strongest then so be it,” Brand said. “I could tell that she was having a harder time than I was. And then I think she made a mistake at some point. And then of course I had to go full gas.”
The crash seemingly knocked Vos off her rhythm. She would finish fourth beneath the rain. As a result, Brand took over as the overall World Cup leader, now with silver and gold medals so far this season.
“It was very nice to be second and now first. I’m definitely happy,” Brand said. “It was a tough race. So was Sunday, but in totally different conditions. I’m happy that I could take the victory today.”
Baloise Trek’s Shirin van Arooij, who is 19, also had a strong race, finishing 11th on the day, and third among 20-and-under riders. Trek Factory Racing’s Jolanda Neff finished 12th after setting the early tempo.
All of the riders are expected to be back in action for this season’s third and final World Cup race on American soil next Sunday in Iowa City. Will Vos and Brand duke it out again? Will an outsider break up the duel? Impossible to say, but it’ll be well worth watching to find out.
Toon Aerts takes fourth, Pim Ronhaar fifth
In Waterloo, an early crash forced Toon Aerts to fight his way back up to a sixth place finish. In Fayetteville, he stayed upright and animated the race early, before holding on for fourth and his best World Cup finish of the season thus far.
Aerts led a bunched front group after Lap 1, then attacked on an incline on Lap 2 to put his competition on the defensive. Only Quinten Hermans hung with him initially. Meanwhile, Waterloo winner Eli Iserbyt had to take an early bike change, forcing him to the back.
Hermans then gradually pulled away, taking a lead that he wouldn’t relinquish on his way to his first career World Cup win. Iserbyt joined Aerts, and the two dueled until the penultimate lap.
In the end, Aerts couldn’t quite keep the wheel of Iserbyt or third-place Michael Vanthourenhout, but he’ll head to Iowa City on an upward trajectory after a fourth place finish. With the result, he moved up to fourth overall on the World Cup standings, 28 points behind Iserbyt in first.
Aerts’ Baloise Trek teammate Pim Ronhaar finished just 12 seconds behind Aerts on the day for fifth. Ronhaar, 20, was the fastest U23 rider. After taking 19th in Waterloo, he’ll also be looking forward to Sunday’s start line.