Saturday was a special day for Belgium's Kim Van De Steene at Superprestige Boom. The latecomer to cyclocross—and former dairy farmer—has been racing well the last few years, but she has yet to have a breakthrough performance.
On Saturday at Niels Albert CX, the Van De Steene went boom, as they say.
At the start of the second lap in Boom, Van De Steene took a flier and put in an attack. Behind her were Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions), Sanne Cant (IKO-Beobank) and more of the sport's top athletes. After the first third of the race, Van De Steene had over 10 seconds on Cant and Alice Maria Arzuffi (Steylaerts - 777).
The next few laps were probably the longest 15 minutes of Van De Steene's life. Cant dangled just five seconds back during laps 3 and 4, seemingly poised to close the gap and maybe even take control of the race.
In the fifth lap, however, Van De Steene broke the two-time world champion's will. Cant faded while Van De Steene powered away.
The win was the first Elite win of Van De Steene's career. Standing on the top step of a Superprestige podium was certainly a far cry from waking up at 5 a.m. to milk cows on her parents' dairy farm.
Van De Steene Takes a Flier
Last year at the Superprestige Niels Albert CX in Boom, Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan-Charles) stared down Sanne Cant and beat the world champion with her skill in the sand. On Saturday, Kaptheijns picked up where she left off by starting fast and leading the field out onto the course.
Her effort eventually faded, and a large group that included Cant, Van De Steene, Van Loy, Kaptheijns, Annemarie Worst (Steylaerts - 777), Arzuffi and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon - Circus) formed at the front after one lap.
Van De Steene raced well last year in October, and on Saturday she had the strong October vibes once again. At the start of the second lap, Van De Steene attacked the lead group. Van Loy and the others scrambled to cover her effort.
As the lap progressed, it was clear that the ginger ’crosser's effort was not just a test; she was all-in on making it stick. At the end of two, Cant and Arzuffi were chasing 11 seconds. Van Loy, Del Carmen Alvarado and Worst chased behind them.
During the third lap, it looked like Cant was going to bridge the gap and join Van De Steene at the front. The champ pulled away from Arzuffi and edged closer and closer to Van De Steene on the flowy, grassy course in Boom. With Cant closing in the proverbial rearview mirror, Van De Steene faced the choice of trying to make her lead stick or dropping back to Cant and trying to defeat her in a two-woman duel.
Midway through the race, Van De Steene's lead was down to six seconds.
Holding on for the Win
As the race entered its second half, Cant was still dangling oh-so-close to Van De Steene. On any given straightaway, Cant could see Van De Steene's bright yellow kit just in front of her. However, as the meters ticked by, she was not closing the gap.
In the last part of the fourth lap, from the first sand pit to the finish, Van De Steene extended her lead, and at the end of four of six, her lead was up to 11 seconds.
That was the closest Cant would get the rest of the race. Van De Steene's effort out of the sand was too much for the defending World Champion. As the race entered its final third, Cant faded back to Arzuffi while Van De Steene stayed on the gas.
The Tarteletto - Isorex rider was not challenged in the last lap. The win was the first of Van De Steene's Elite career that started full-time at the start of the 2016/17 season.
After catching Cant in Lap 5, Arzuffi pulled past her and took over solo second. She held the spot to grab silver. Cant finished third.
Elle Anderson (Milwaukee - Alpha Motorhomes finished eighth.
Photos and results are below.