Update on the new Baloise Trek kit: Still fast
The newly-named Baloise Trek Lions wasted no time giving their refreshed kits a spin. After announcing the name change on New Year’s Eve, the Lions sent Lucinda Brand and company to a pair of big races: the GP Sven Nys in Baal, part of the X2O Badkamers Trofee series, on Jan. 1, and a World Cup series race in Hulst on Jan. 3.
Brand took home two silver medals to extend her podium streak to 24 straight races. She had won eight of her last 10 races heading into Baal, where she missed the top step by just four seconds to current World Champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado.
Brand and Alvarado have dueled throughout the season, building up to what should be an epic clash at the World Championships in Oostende later this month. If Friday’s race was a preview, then buckle up. Like in many races this season, Brand and Alvarado separated themselves from the pack early, along with fellow Dutchwoman Denise Betsema. Alvarado and Brand eventually distanced Betsema as they traded the lead back and forth. Alvarado’s final final margin came on a late technical descent on the final lap.
In Hulst, Betsema got revenge on her nemeses, winning by 1:02 over Brand. Betsema, as she has done several times this season, took the early lead in the race, but held it through seven laps around a windy, hilly course. Brand appeared to be charging towards Betsema, down 40 seconds heading into the final lap, but fell midway through the course to give Betsema a secure lead and create another tight finish with Alvarado. This time, Brand beat Alvarado by seven seconds.
With the result, Brand locked up the UCI World Cup series victory. No matter how she performs in the fifth and final World Cup race on Jan. 24 in Overijse, no one can pry the leader’s jersey off her shoulders. Alvarado and Betsema will duke it out for second place; Betsema currently leads Alvarado by just six points.