by Kyle Moore
LEUVEN, Belgium — It was another solo Sels at a Soudal Classic cyclocross race. It might be a bit of a tongue-twister, but Loes Sels likes the sound of it.
Sels (Crelan-Charles) added to her Soudal Classics cyclocross win tally on Sunday in Leuven. The 32-year-old, who hails from Turnhout in Belgium, capitalized on the confidence she earned early in the holiday season with her solo win at the GP Hasselt Soudal Classic on December 2.
Sels took the lead from Thalita de Jong (Experza-Footlogix) early in the first lap and used clean racing to open a modest gap that she confidently held throughout the six-lap race.
The 2016 world champion De Jong took another step forward after making her return to cyclocross at the GP Sven Nys on New Year’s Day, finding her legs at the midpoint of the race and coming back for second place, ahead of 19-year-old Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Beobank-Corendon). Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea) rode strongly early as the pursuit of Sels began, but would ultimately fade to fourth.
— Soudal Classics (@SoudalClassics) January 7, 2018
Sels is the Strongest and Cleanest in Leuven
After de Jong grabbed the holeshot, Sels came around in an early running section and opened up a 5-second lead at the end of the first lap, as Van Loy took control of the chasing group.
Jolien Verschueren (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice), who was one of the pre-race favorites, suffered some misfortune on the opening lap and hit the line more than a minute back of the leader after one lap. She packed it in early a lap later, pulling off the course and ending her day at Leuven.
Sels rode cleanly through her second lap on the dirty but dry Leuven course, as Van Loy, Alvarado, Manon Bakker (Experza-Footlogix) and Bakker’s teammate De Jong consolidated their chase behind. Not content to ride with the group, Van Loy took charge at the beginning of lap three, and the Belgian pulled out a gap on de Jong and Bakker, with Alvarado in her wake.
— Telenet Fidea Lions (@TFLions) January 7, 2018
Early on, De Jong had the look of a rider just making her way back onto the cyclocross circuit, grimacing thanks to the pace and struggling to find her line on a section of dirt dips.
The technical Leuven course was going to reward the mistake-free and misfortune-free rider on the day, and that title went to Sels. Alvarado slipped in an early off-camber S-curve section, allowing a gap to Van Loy in second. Bakker had gearing issues midway through the race and lost more than half a minute, ending her chances for a top place. And Van Loy bobbled a remount in the same section that had befallen Alvarado early on. Sels, on the other hand, perfected every step of the fated section.
As the race wound down, De Jong showed some of the skill that earned the rainbow stripes on her sleeves. She accelerated early in the penultimate lap and earned some space on Van Loy and Alvarado, but the best she could do was to keep the gap behind Sels steady at 19 seconds.
The Crelan-Charles rider topped off her day with a clean finish and a clean jersey, which she exhibited well in her victory post up.
De Jong was more than pleased with second place, and Alvarado continued her impressive start with her new team in 2018, rounding out the podium.
— Experza-Footlogix (@teamEXFO) January 7, 2018
Elle Anderson (Milwaukee – Alphamotorhomes) finished 9th, Corey Coogan Cisek (The Fix Studio) 20th, Stacey Reidel of Australia 23rd and Erin Mitchell of Australia 26th.
Women's Results: 2018 Soudal Classics Leuven
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|3||7||DEL CARMEN ALVARADO||Ceylin||NED||0:43:12|
|13||16||VAN DER BURG||Esther||NED||0:46:34|
|20||19||COOGAN CISEK||Corey||USA||-1 LAP|
|21||25||DE BRUYNE||Meg||BEL||-1 LAP|
|22||26||DE VRIES||Didi||NED||-1 LAP|
|24||24||DUBAU PREVOT||Axelle||FRA||-2 LAPS|