On Sunday at Vlaamse Druivencross, resilience was important for any rider hoping to win the famed “Mother of All Crosses.”
After a healthy pre-race rain, the course in Overijse was thick with mud, so slips and falls were inevitable, even for those at the front. The course’s many descents were especially treacherous thanks to the weather.
After a slow start, last year’s bronze medalist Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) moved up to second behind Nikki Brammeier (Mudiiita) after the first lap. She caught Brammeier early in the second lap, but then dropped back when she crashed on one of the course’s small descents.
In the third of five laps, she again recovered and rejoined Brammeier at the front, only to crash again on the big descent at the end of the lap.
Brand recovered and retook the lead and then extended it when Brammeier slipped out on the climb before Pit 2 and had to run to get a new bike while Brand powered up the incline.
Then—at this point you may have guessed it—Brand crashed again on the lap’s final descent. Brammeier had an eight-second lead at the bell. Brand needed one last recovery and some smooth sailing to grab the win.
Brand powered back to Brammeier and then took over the lead. All that stood between her and an ugly, messy, muddy win was a safe trip down the descent of doom. Brand skated through it on the final lap and coasted home to take an ugly, but very effective, Druivencross win.
An Ugly Start in Overijse
After a fairly dry start to the Belgian season, the famous winter rains arrived over the weekend. As riders prepped for the 15th Women’s Vlaamse Druivencross, rain poured down on the venue in Overijse. The result was conditions that were alternatively thick and slick, depending on the spot on the course.
Gonna wait a few minutes before I get out of the car. Steady 🌧in Overijse. pic.twitter.com/ERQGtUd2D1
— Corey Coogan Cisek (@CCooganCisek) December 9, 2018
With a number of women still away training in warmer climates, the riders who stayed to race in Belgium got the chance to place their names in the impressive annals of the Druivencross race.
Brammeier, Eva Lechner (Cerafin TUV Sud) and Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions) started fast, and midway through the lap, the three had almost 10 seconds on the rest of the field.
The race got a big shakeup when tragedy struck shortly before Pit 2. Van Loy slipped on a slick corner and while falling, twisted her knee. She left the course in obvious pain on a stretcher and was taken to a nearby hospital. Stay tuned for more on the extent of her injury.
After the first lap, Brammeier had 11 seconds on Brand, with Lechner trailing behind her.
Two of the few respites from the relenting mud on the Druivencross course were paved power climbs. The road standout Brand took advantage of them throughout the race, starting with the second lap where she powered to the front to join Brammeier.
If the power climbs were Brand’s friend, the descents were very much not. Brand’s time with Brammeier was short-lived since she crashed on one of the small, muddy drops. Two laps in, Brammeier had a 13-second lead.
Closing a gap was nothing new to Brand at this point. She again powered forward toward Brammeier and took the lead. In Lap 3, she fell on the big descent at the end of the lap. Brand recovered, however, and with two to go, she was within a second of Brammeier.
Behind them, Lechner took over solo third after Britain’s Ffion James (Storey Racing) crashed on the steep descent at the end of the lap and dropped back after holding a strong fourth early on.
Brand was able to put past issues behind her and assert herself in the battle against Brammeier. She took over the lead at the start of the penultimate lap and led through much of the nine-minute muddy slog.
Brammeier had some troubles of her own shortly before Pit 2 when she slipped out and had to run the entire climb up to the pits. Brand stayed on the bike, saving a match or two and opening up a several-second lead.
That lead lasted until Brand was again bested by the unfriendly descent. She crashed to the ground again, allowing Brammeier to take the lead once more. At the bell, the Briiitish woman had an eight-second advantage.
As she did all race, Brand used the paved incline to power back to Brammeier. The Dutch woman best known for her road prowess then passed Brammeier on foot in one of the thick sections that forced riders off the bike. Now with a lead inside the bell, Brand extended her advantage as Brammeier appeared to be out of gas.
One last trip down the descent of doom stood between Brand and the win.
This time, there was no doom and gloom on the drop. Brand navigated it safely and coasted home to take her second win of the season and add her name to the impressive list of Women’s Druivencross winners since the race was first held in 2000.
Brammeier finished second for the third time this season and is still chasing her elusive first win of 2018/19. Lechner took third.
James finished sixth and 17-year-old Harriet Harnden (T-Mo Racing) of Great Britain finished seventh. Corey Coogan Cisek (Amy D. Foundation) finished 15th. Elle Anderson (Milwaukee – Alpha Motorhomes) DNFed.
Full results are below.
Elite Women's Results: 2018 Vlaamse Druivencross
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|16||6||VAN LOY||Tess||BEL||-2 LAPS|