Sunday's Women's race at Superprestige Gieten was a Dutch homecoming, just not for the rider most fans would have expected.
In the second lap of Sunday's race, Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) looked like she was headed to a solo win on the sands of Gieten in her first 2018/19 race in front of Dutch fans.
A second Dutch woman, however, was also looking to have a memorable homecoming as well. In the latter half of the second lap, Annemarie Worst (Steylaerts - 777) bridged up to her countrymate and made it a two-person battle at the front.
In the fourth lap, Worst opened up a small gap on Vos by riding a section of sand that Vos had to run. As it turns out, it was a foreshadowing of the race's key moment.
The next lap, Worst dominated the sand, while Vos struggled. When the fifth lap was over, Worst had a 30-second lead, while Vos dropped back to fourth.
The win was Worst's first in one of the major Belgian-based series and first since taking a win the EKZ Baden race last September.
Vos Starts Hot Again
Sunday's race in Gieten, located in the northeast corner of the Netherlands, had a beach-like vibe, with temperatures in the 70s and the course taking place in the Jonkers Zandgat sand quarry.
Eva Lechner (Cerafin TUV Sud) took the holeshot at the start of the Elite Women's race, but then Vos wasted little time moving to the front to drive the pace. Sanne Cant (IKO-Beobank) and several other riders got caught up in a crash early in the race, forcing her and others to chase pretty much from the opening whistle.
Vos' early aggression drew out Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan-Charles) and Worst as the riders hit the extensive sand section for the first time. Vos was the strongest of the trio in the sand early on, and after one lap, she already had a 5-second lead on Kaptheijns and Worst. With Cant nearly 30 seconds back, it appeared that Vos' first race in the Netherlands of the 2018/19 season might be a solo win.
Midway through the second lap, Worst broke from Kaptheijns and started powering her way toward Vos in an attempt to bridge through the sand. Her efforts were successful, and after two laps, it was the two Dutch women at the front. Kaptheijns faded a bit and joined Loes Sels (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) in the race for third.
The third of seven laps shaped up as a duel between Vos and Worst, with the two women staying together throughout the trip around the course. Behind them, Worst's teammate Alice Maria Arzuffi (Steylaerts - 777) moved up into a solo third, nearly 10 seconds ahead of the women behind her.
A Day at the Beach for Worst
If one were sizing up the duel between Vos and Worst, one could argue it was a match-up of Vos' power against Worst's bike handling. Midway through the race, it was unclear whether power through the sand or handling in the deep ruts would make the winning difference.
In the fourth lap, Worst got a small gap in one of the sand sections when she rode it cleanly while Vos dismounted and ran. Vos recovered and bridged back up to Worst through the start/finish straight, but as the next lap would show, Worst's sand skills were a foreshadowing of the race's decisive stretch.
The next time through the sand, Worst made her move. Early in the sand, she had a gap on Vos, one that was bigger than the previous lap. Worst continued moving forward while Vos dropped back. When the dust of the sand cleared, Worst's advantage was 29 seconds on Vos, Sels and Arzuffi.
The rest of the race was all about Worst. The young Dutch rider stayed perfect to take an impressive win in front of her home-country fans.
Worst first committed to cyclocross full-time at the start of the 2017/18 season, and Sunday's win was the biggest of her Elite career. It was her first win in one of the two major Belgian-based series.
Behind her, Arzuffi entered the bell lap with an advantage on Vos and Sels, but the two chasers bridged up and made it a three-up battle for second. Vos put in a big effort shortly before the last turn to carry a slight advantage into the finishing stretch to take second. Arzuffi held on to take third in a sprint against Sels.
Elle Anderson (Milwaukee - Alpha Motorhomes) finished 10th.
A photo gallery and full results are below.