Lucinda Brand claws out 2nd, Toon Aerts rebounds in Herentals

Lucinda Brand fights back to finish behind the World Champ

On a rainy, muddy and technical course in Herentals, Lucinda Brand fell just short of a third straight win on Wednesday, taking second place by 19 seconds behind reigning World Champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado.

Brand fought hard for all four laps to keep Alvarado’s wheel. The two took turns at the front of the race for most of the first two laps, along with Denise Betsema. But then Alvarado asserted her technical prowess on a long, tricky descent just before the paved stretch to the line. By the start of the third lap, Alvarado had a roughly 10-second gap on her rivals.

Brand gradually carved into Alvarado’s lead on the third lap with pure power, pulling to within four seconds. But once again, the descent gave Alvarado a gap. Brand overcooked a sharp right bend and crashed over her handlebars, shipping time in the process. Alvarado would then hold her advantage throughout the final lap.

Lucinda Brand running uphill on a brutal course.

“Today I had a slightly worse day, and made a little more mistakes,” Brand said after the race. “You will make a mistake on this course anyway, but that is part of it.”

The result is only mildly disappointing when judged by the incredibly high standard Brand has set in the last month. It was only the third time in 10 races stretching back to Nov. 11 that she didn’t win. Brand hasn’t finished off a podium since November of 2019.

Brand’s battles with Alvarado have been a ton of fun to watch this season. They’ll race each other two more times this coming weekend: Saturday for a Superprestige series race in Heusden-Zolder, and Sunday for a World Cup event in Dendermonde. It should be a great two days of cyclocross.

Toon Aerts got a confidence boost before a big weekend.

Toon Aerts rebounds from Namur

The men’s race was dominated by a duel between cyclocross and road stars Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, which Van Aert won for his first victory of the season. But Telenet-Baloise’s Toon Aerts had a good day as well, nipping Eli Iserbyt by three seconds to finish fourth, 2:15 back of Van Aert.

Aerts was coming off a disappointing seventh place finish last weekend at the World Cup event in Namur. But on Wednesday, he looked much more spry, finishing at the front of a tight pack of chasers after a difficult six laps. Teammate Lars van der Haar was just 33 seconds back of Aerts, but finished in eighth place.

Toon Aerts navigating a technical descent in Herentals.

Aerts has been one of the most consistent riders within a chaotic men’s field, in which a bad day can mean a significant drop from the podium. Aerts currently ranks third in the X2O Badkamers Trofee and World Cup standings, and second in the Superprestige series.

Wednesday’s result should give Aerts a confidence boost before Saturday and Sunday’s Belgian showdowns.