Cyclocross fans have a new top rider to get acquainted with.
In an unpredictable season, one of the fastest rising stars has been Denisa Betsema (Marlux – Bingoal). After finishing in the top 10 at Superprestige Gieten and Ruddervoorde, the Dutchwoman signed with the Marlux – Bingoal team the day after delivering a third-place ride at the European Championships.
On Sunday at World Cup Koksijde, Betsema showed the world why her new team signed her so quickly.
Betsema got off to a slow start on the dunes of Koksijde, but early in the third of five laps, she bridged to a lead group of Nikki Brammeier (Mudiiita), Sanne Cant (IKO – Beobank), Annemarie Worst (Steylaerts – 777), Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon – Circus) and Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek Knight).
After the group covered an attack by Cant and the reigning World Champion made two costly mistakes in the thick Koksijde sand, the selection came down to Betsema and Brammeier at the bell. One looking for the biggest win of her young career, one looking for a marquee result for her new solo program.
Midway through the last lap, the group returned to four through one of the long, sandy runs. After remounting, Betsema looked back to see she had a few bike lengths on Brammeier.
On a day where gaps were hard to come by, Betsema attacked. When she looked back, her lead was several seconds on Worst and Brammeier.
Betsema’s move gave her a decisive gap that not even a small bobble while remounting could challenge. Her meteoric rise to the top of the ’cross peloton continued with an emphatic win at one of the sport’s iconic venues.
Fast Starts, Quick Recoveries
Despite leading the World Cup series after the first three races, Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) took a break through World Cup Tabor and returned on Sunday at Koksijde.
The rest appeared to pay off early on, as Vos took the holeshot and then led the first two-thirds of the first lap. Her fast start, however, was a red herring.
Brammeier moved into the lead, and Vos started to fade back.
At the end of the first lap, the lead group was Brammeier, Cant and Worst, with Alvarado and Compton chasing less than 10 seconds behind them. Vos was already 20 seconds back in a group of several riders.
As the second lap progressed, first Alvarado and then Compton caught the lead group. Worst put in a small attack coming out of a sand section, but the group quickly swallowed it up. It was a pattern that would repeat itself several times, with the many sand sections that required running snuffing out any gaps riders were able to get.
At the end of Lap 2, Brammeier went off the front, but her small advantage was quickly erased.
Behind the leaders, two women were on the move. Betsema and Richards dropped the rest of their group and started to bridge the gap to the leaders. After one lap the duo chased 21 seconds. After two, the gap was down to 10.
At the midpoint of the race, Betsema continued her drive to the front while Richards flagged a bit. Halfway into the race, the lead group was now six.
Sanne Cant has a lot of history at Koksijde. She won the World Cups in 2014 and 2015, finished on the podium in 2012, 2013 and 2017 and won the 2018 Belgian Nationals there. In the latter part of the third lap, she made her bid to win the World Cup for the third time.
Cant attacked and got a few bike lengths on the others. The group came back, and then Cant attacked again when she rode through a section of sand while Brammeier, sitting second, dismounted and ran.
The move gave her a four-second lead at the end of three laps. Four riders chased, while Compton dropped off the quickening pace.
As predicted by earlier snuffed out attacks, the chasers caught Cant at the first run-up. The lead group was now five—Cant, Betsema, Worst, Alvarado and Brammeier.
Now part of the lead group, Betsema completed her charge to the front by taking the lead for the middle part of Lap 4. Clearly feeling strong, she pushed the pace and created a small split at the front. Brammeier joined her in the lead, while Worst and Alvarado chased.
Cant bobbled twice in the sand, and at the bell, she was chasing 17 seconds. There would be no Koksijde coronation for her on Sunday.
At the bell, Betsema and Brammeier had five seconds on Worst and Alvarado. Their lead lasted up and over the first run-up, but on the long drag of sand, Del Carmen Alvarado and Worst bridged to again make it a group of four. At least momentarily.
After clearing the long run, Betsema put in a powerful dig into one of the few sections of grass and dirt. She looked back and saw Brammeier struggling to follow her move. Betsema continued to put the power down and got a five-second gap. Worst moved into second to take up the chase.
With her move complete, Betsema looked in control of the race. When Betsema bobbled at the top of a sandy descent, it appeared her dream finish might be derailed. She quickly recovered, and her lead was big enough that it was a minor hiccup on a memorable journey to a Koksijde win.
Betsema powered through the last few sections and crossed the line with the biggest win of her impressive young career. The Marlux – Bingoal team knew what we have all quickly learned: Denise Betsema is now a force to be reckoned with in the Women’s ’cross.
Behind the leader, Worst’s push to catch Betsema took its toll. After dropping back to third, Brammeier recovered and powered back to take second. Worst held off Alvarado for third.
Early leader Vos finished 12th.
Compton led the North American contingent in 13th. Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing CX) finished 18th, Kaitie Keough (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) 21st, Maghalie Rochette (CX Fever p/b Specialized) 28th, Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX) 32nd, Elle Anderson (Milwaukee – Alpha Motorhomes) 34th, Regina Legge (Trek Cyclocross Collective) 44th and Corey Coogan Cisek (Amy D. Foundation) 46th.
Full results are below.
Elite Women's Results: 2018 World Cup Koksijde
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|4||21||ALVARADO||Ceylin del Carmen||NED||0:46:05|
|15||6||VAN DE STEENE||Kim||BEL||0:47:30|
|17||25||VAN DER HEIJDEN||Inge||NED||0:47:53|