On Saturday, European rider lined up at the Telenet Superprestige Niels Albert CX in Boom, Belgium for a warm-up for Sunday’s World Cup in Koksijde. With several top riders racing, and others not, the race certainly had the potential to have a different feel than those held on one-race weekends. The sands of Koksijde are looming and two massive efforts can be difficult even for the world’s best cyclocross racers.
If there has been a surprise rider thus far in the 2017/18 Telenet Superprestige series it is Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan-Charles) of the Netherlands. Kaptheijns has won the first two legs of the series in impressive fashion, largely leaving the rest of the field in the dust in Gieten and Zonhoven. Surprise the field enough and eventually, you will become a marked woman.
Kaptheijns’ M.O. during the last month has been to steal Ellen van Loy’s (Telenet Fidea Lions) thunder and get out to a fast start that she maintains through the entire first lap to get a, often winning, gap.
On Saturday, the other riders were not going to let Kaptheijns get away early. When Kaptheijns moved around Van Loy after her customary fast start, other riders were there to cover her move. The early fast action resulted in a fast selection of Kaptheijns, Van Loy, Annemarie Worst (ERA-Circus) and Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon), the latter of whom was looking to build on her strong ride during the second half of last week’s Superprestige in Koksijde.
— Sniper Cycling Team (@SniperCycling) October 21, 2017
Worst Benefits Early
The beneficiary early on was Worst. The defending U23 World Champion put in a dig and got a gap on the other chasers. Worst is known for her handling skills, but she seemed quite at home on the sweeping turns and frequently uphill grinds on the course in Boom. The course may not have been tailor-made for her skill set, but for over a lap she had a gap on her competitors.
Technical features on the course were concentrated near the end of the circuit. Riders had to navigate a sand pit, climb a set of stairs, go through the sand again, go over the controversial 25cm barriers and then go through the sand one more time–a lot of technical in a short period of time.
Perhaps surprisingly, it was the sand that did Worst’s attack in. At the end of the second lap, her five-second lead was erased in a matter of a few hundred meters in the sand and on the stairs. Two laps in, and the selection was four again.
Next up to give it a go was Van Loy. She pulled from the group at the end of the third lap and took a three-second lead heading into the penultimate lap. The other three brought her back and heading into the last lap, all the attacks were for naught and the selection was four.
A Battle in the Sand, a Day Early
Three sand sections and one Sanne Cant. Sure, the famed course at Koksijde awaits on Sunday, but why not get some practice on Saturday? Sand and cyclocross are synonymous with Sanne Cant, so few would argue who had the advantage in the group of four.
Van Loy fell off the pace while the three woman jockeyed for position. Each of the three remaining riders took their turn in the lead prior to the technical finale to the day’s racing.
Cant was the first to the first sand section, and then boom, Kaptheijns went flying past the sand master. Would there be a new pit boss on Saturday?
Not quite. The stairs immediately followed the first sand section, so any advantage from riding was muted by the quick dismount and run. Cant closed the gap and the two were together again.
Heading into Saturday’s race, word leaked out that the organizers in Boom would be using 25cm barriers for the Women’s race. Throughout the race, Worst, Cant and Van Loy hopped the planks while nearly all the rest of the field, including Kaptheijns, dismounted and ran over them.
On the final lap, Kaptheijns once again ran the barriers while Cant hopped them. The World Champion used the extra speed to carry momentum into the last section of sand and then sprint past Kaptheijns at the exit to take over the lead position. It appeared the story with the sand and Cant was writing itself.
Kaptheijns, however, still had something to say. With only a few hundred meters to go before the last corner and finishing sprint, the Superprestige series leader again pulled around Cant to take the lead position into the final sprint.
Kaptheijns used her positioning to explode into the sprint and hold off Cant to continue her Superprestige perfection in 2017, giving Crelan Charles coach and manager Niels Albert a victory in his namesake race.
Worst took third for her efforts, Van Loy fourth and Alice Arzuffi (Steylaerts Betfirst) took fifth.
Fans do not have to wait long for more European cyclocross action. The field heads to the northeast corner of Belgium to the shores of the North Sea for the Koksijde World Cup.
2017 Superprestige Niels Albert CX - Boom Results - Elite Women
|Rank||Bib||Last Name||First Name||Country||Team||Age||Result|
|1||5||KAPTHEIJNS||Maud||NED||CRELAN - CHARLES||23||0:40:01|
|4||3||VAN LOY||Ellen||BEL||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||37||0:40:26|
|5||8||ARZUFFI||Alice Maria||ITA||STEYLAERTS - BETFIRST||23||0:40:48|
|6||6||VERSCHUEREN||Jolien||BEL||PAUWELS SAUZEN - VASTGOEDSERVICE||27||0:40:53|
|7||28||VAN DE STEENE||Kim||BEL||TARTELETTO - ISOREX||31||0:41:15|
|10||12||NAGENGAST||Fleur||NED||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||19||0:42:20|
|12||4||VERDONSCHOT||Laura||BEL||MARLUX - NAPOLEON GAMES||21||0:42:57|