Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) took her first World Cup win of the season in Heusden-Zolder, although it was a far cry from an easy win. The oft described “power course,” with its scenic traverse through a pine forest, still has a few muddy uphill corners and sweeping downhills to contend with.
After thrilling U23 and Junior Heusden Zolder races, the women’s race was close enough that Katerina Nash (Luna Pro) and Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo Liv) both took turns at the front of the race on the last lap, with the three riders staying just far enough ahead of Sabrina Stultiens (Rabo Liv) to keep her out of contention. Vos, able to overcome a flat tire, managed to get out front at the right time before the final corner, and took the win with her typical powerful finish. Nash followed in four seconds behind, out sprinting Vos’ teammate, Ferrand Prevot, who took the last spot on the podium.
At the beginning of the race, Italian Eva Lechner (Rusvelo) once again proved herself as one of the best starters in women’s cyclocross, taking her second World Cup holeshot on the week. Vos kept right on her wheel, with Compton also having a good start, holding in the top five. Within the first several corners, however, Nash and the American nudged each other with enough force that Compton needed to unclip. She recovered well, although a bottleneck of riders took place on that sand soon after.
After a single lap, it looked like Vos was ready to run away with the race. French champion Ferrand Prevot was giving a good effort in second place, but she took many corners too hot, which resulted in several bobbles and needless unclipping moments in those turns. Still, her power kept her near the front of the race all day, which made for an impressive day for the Rabo Liv team.
A small group of five women were chasing down the two Rabo Liv riders, which included Sanne Cant, Compton, Nash, and Stultiens: all riders familiar with being near the front of a cyclocross race. As the laps played on, however, Nash kept moving forward while Compton surprisingly struggled.
With one lap to go, Vos suffered a flat, albeit not terribly far from the pits, but it was enough to allow the duo of Nash and Ferrand Prevot to catch up and pass her.
Sanne Cant, who suffered a devastating mechanical, likely either multiple broken spokes or a rear axle judging by the way her wheel was acting halfway through the race, was able to ride to the pits after releasing her rear brake. She finished seventh on the day, good enough to keep her at the overall World Cup lead.
In the same corner where Nash and Compton had an early tussle, Ferrand Prevot took an extremely aggressive line heading in, and chopped Nash, causing the Czech national champion to go down in the sand. Nash not only recovered well, but was able to retake the lead a few turns later. Would she won her second consecutive World Cup?
Up front, Nash had serval seconds on her chasers, but squandered it on the run-ups, where her foot slipped on a log and she went down. Vos, however, was unable to get around and take advantage of Nash’s misfortune.
Heading into the final power section, Vos turned on the gas with an impressive attack, as Nash held off Ferrand Prevot. Vos was able to maintain the narrow lead until the end, while Nash sprinted to the line in front of the French national champion to take second.
— Marianne Vos (@marianne_vos) December 26, 2014
Katie Compton dropped out of the race after a good start, likely due to asthma-related issues.
There was a good American contingent at the race, and the women did plenty of preparation before the event:
Three Americans were able to make the top 20: Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld) finished 18th, Arley Kemmerer (PB2) followed in 19th, while Crystal Anthony (Optum) finished at 20th.
Libby White was able to pull off a great result at 31st, a much better result than her first World Cup last Sunday. Erica Zaveta (Amy D. Foundation) overcame a hard crash in the second lap to take 37th. Courtenay McFadden (GE/American Classic) had a mechanical in the first lap, and finished 45th, and Christine Vardaros followed at 47th.
British racer Nikki Harris finished in 11th, while Helen Wyman finished in 13th. Hannah Payton finished in 40th (see her unique bike, profiled here).
2014 Heusden Zolder World Cup, Women's Elite Race
|Rank Rang||Name Nom||Time Temps|
|3||FERRAND PREVOT Pauline||+00:05|
|6||VAN LOY Ellen||+01:31|
|8||DE BOER Sophie||+01:57|
|14||ARZUFFI Alice Maria||+02:45|
|16||VAN PAASSEN Sanne||+03:05|
|33||ERLANDSSON Asa Maria||+05:47|
|42||ODRIOZOLA MUJIKA Olatz||+07:19|
|46||PACIOS PUJADO Mercedes|
|49||TRABAZO BRAGADO Irene|
|50||KLOPPENBURG Margriet Helena|
|VAN DEN HOEK Bianca|