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After two weeks in the sun and heat of the American Midwest, things were back to normal in the cyclocross world. European riders were close to home and cooler temperatures and rain main the course more “Euro,” and U.S. fans were back to their routine of waking up early and praying to the ’cross gods for a quality stream for watching the race.

Conditions at Superprestige Gieten on Sunday were not rainy, but precipitation over the weekend left the course damp and in many places, legitimately muddy. By the time the elite races rolled around, solid-packed riding lines emerged through many of the wet sections, but there were still areas riders had to contend with the mud, especially near the start and barriers. The Gieten course is set adjacent to a pond, so there were a substantial sand section and a handful of steep rises riders had to power up.

Dutch rider Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan-Charles) was no doubt happy to be back home for one of the few Superprestige races in the Netherlands. Kaptheijns had a strong opening race at Brico Cross Eeklo and then finished a quiet fifth at the Jingle Cross World Cup, so the race on her home soil was a chance to place her name next to those of Europe’s top women.

After Kaptheijns took over the lead position shortly after Ellen Van Loy’s (Telenet Fidea Lions) customary fast start, she decided to keep going and make a who’s who of women’s cyclocross chase her down. After one lap, her gap back to the chase was five seconds and it was up to Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon), Sophie de Boer (Parkhotel Valkenburg – Destil Cycling) and Annemarie Worst (ERA-Circus) to bring her back.

The group had to chase the gap, but at the same time, they had to contend with one another. Kaptheijns’ early attack on the damp afternoon stood a very real chance of sticking while the chasers sorted out their affairs behind her.

Kaptheijns Rockets to a Fast Start

Coming into Sunday’s race at Gieten, Kaptheijns had won just one race in her entire professional career at Krawatencross earlier this calendar year. In a bike race of any discipline, riders who are not headliners, per se, can sneak away to grab unexpected victories against impressive fields while the others wait for someone else to do the work.

On Sunday, Kaptheijns had an opportunity to take advantage of this dynamic. After assuming control of the field early on in the first lap, Kaptheijns stayed on the gas and kept pedaling hard off the front. Behind her, a chase of Cant, De Boer and Worst quickly broke away from the other women. After one lap, Kaptheijns gap to the chase was five seconds.

Perhaps the other riders were waiting for Kaptheijns to come back to the chase, but midway through the second lap, it was clear her lead had grown. At the end of two laps, her advantage had swelled to a healthy 14 seconds. Kaptheijns has shown improvement during the young season, and it appeared letting her go up the proverbial road may have been a mistake for the chase group.

Close in arrears of the chase trio of Cant, De Boer and Worst was the English-speaking duo of Elle Anderson (Cycling.be – Alphamotorhomes Ladies) and Nikki Brammeier (Boels-Dolmans), and behind them lurked Helen Wyman (Kona). If these women worked together and the chase continued to sort out their efforts, an opportunity for the chase group to grow was on the table.

Too Little, Too Late?

When the race entered its middle third, De Boer seemed struck by a sense of urgency. Shortly before the long section along the beach, she roared to the front and worked to close the gap to the race leader. She put in an extended dig and the chase pace increased. Sometimes the affairs

Sometimes the affairs on course can be tough to gauge, but the race timer never lies. Shortly after the chasers hit the barriers, they would pass the finishing stretch. Had De Boer’s effort closed the gap?

In a word, no. After three of six laps, Kaptheijns’ lead was 31 seconds and almost on cue, Brammeier and Anderson joined the chase and the now five riders were resigned to vying for second.

Kaptheijns was not challenged the rest of the race. Her gap would swell to nearly 50 seconds back to second. The win was her 2nd podium and 1st win of the young 2017/18 season and an impressive improvement over her 13th-place finish at Gieten last year.

Excitement in the Battle for Second

With Kaptheijns off to a victory, the chase was left to battle it out for “Best of the Rest.” Worst and De Boer looked the strongest while doing most of the work on the front.

During the fourth lap, Cant made a trip to the pits and fell back to a position at the back of the five woman-chase. During the next lap, she yo-yo-ed off the back and appeared at risk of getting dropped from the chase. With the world champion on the ropes, it was likely a wasted opportunity by the rest of the chase to dispatch the biggest podium threat in the group.

When the lap counter turned to one, Cant recovered and was back in the thick of the chase. Wyman continued her steady ride in the Hellenic conditions, and when she passed the line, she was in the dreaded close-but-not-quite-there position. The stage was set for a thrilling final lap.

Last week at the Trek CX Cup C2 race on Friday, fans in Waterloo were left shocked when Cant made a rare unforced error and crashed on the small set of stairs. On Sunday, Cant again made an uncharacteristic mistake.

This time it was not stairs or really anything that yelled “decisive technical feature.” On a small rise near the sandy beach section, Cant’s wheel slipped out and she made contact with Worst’s bike on her right. Cant’s hoods and handlebars were knocked askew and Worst’s chain got jammed. For both, the chase was over.

Cant and Worst’s misfortune proved a blessing for the other riders in the chase. Brammeier, De Boer and Anderson emerged unscathed and Wyman used the crash to close the gap.

With half a lap left to go, a classic battle for second was in store. Needless to say, the cameras on the Dutch feed focused on Cant and De Boer and their ever-important battle for sixth.

Brammeier had a massive final half a lap to reign supreme in the group of four left standing. De Boer took third, Anderson completed her impressive return to Europe by finishing fourth and Wyman wrapped up the top five. In case the reader is wondering, Cant won the important battle for sixth.

Cyclocross Magazine will be covering all Telenet Superprestige, DVV Verzekeringen Trofee and World Cup races this season. Next up is Sunday’s DVV Trofee Hotondcross / GP Mario de Clercq in Ronse, Belgium that will be streamed live on trekbikes.com.

Women's Results - 2017 Telenet Superprestige Gieten

RankBIBLast NameFirst NameAgeResult
15KAPTHEIJNSMaud23'0:41:45
27BRAMMEIERNikki31'0:42:20
32DE BOERSophie27'0:42:30
410ANDERSONElle29'0:42:33
515WYMANHelen36'0:42:41
61CANTSanne27'0:42:55
79WORSTAnnemarie22'0:42:59
818SELSLoes32'0:43:05
98ARZUFFIAlice Maria23'0:43:27
1016KASTELIJNYara20'0:43:31
1177BETSEMADenise24'0:43:31
1224DEL CARMEN ALVARADOCeylin19'0:43:41
1312NAGENGASTFleur19'0:43:50
1431VAN DER HEIJDENInge18'0:43:54
1511FRANCKAlicia23'0:43:58
1621BAKKERManon18'0:44:49
1778HOEKEGeerte27'0:45:16
1813VERHESTRAETENKaren26'0:45:26
1938MEISTROKSusanne18'0:45:28
2052VERHOEVENSuzanne21'0:45:59
2130DE HEIJMaaike19'0:46:35
2223VAN DER BURGEsther19'0:46:38
2355WEERINKFloor19'0:47:17
2439MULDERMascha23'0:47:38
2540OOSTERMANEsmee21'0:48:18
2636KRANSLaura30'0:48:27
2756VAN WITZENBURGMarieke32'0:48:38
2879REDMONDNatalie26'0:48:53
2917VAN VLEUTENAnnemiek35'0:48:54
3053VOSMarlies16'1 Lap
3132HOOG ANTINKDorien16'1 Lap
3219AMMERLAANRozemarijn17'1 Lap
3358VAN DER ZWAANLaura16'1 Lap
3434KLOESERose16'1 Lap
3548SCHUTTENPam16'1 Lap
3637MEISTROKMaaike18'1 Lap
3735KOPERRosan16'1 Lap
3854DE VRIESDaphne16'1 Lap
3926EBBINGEIsolde16'1 Lap
4050TENTSanne22'1 Lap
4143PIETERSEIsa17'1 Lap
4229TEN HAVERienke18'1 Lap
4347SCHOONEWILLEYvet17'1 Lap
4445PRINSSanne16'1 Lap
4528DE HAANNoa16'1 Lap
DNF3VAN LOYEllen37
DNF4VERDONSCHOTLaura21
DNF6VERSCHUERENJolien27
DNF14NOSKOVANikola20
DNF20VAN ANROOIJLindy21
DNF22BOSCHKERJulia18
DNF25VAN DER DUINMaike16
DNF27GOOSSENSVeerle24
DNF33HOOG ANTINKIris16
DNF41OOSTERWOUDWendy22
DNF42PETERMANLorena18
DNF44VAN DER POLIris19
DNF46VAN ROOIJENAnne17
DNF49SMULDERSSilke16
DNF51UYLKarin39
DNF57WOUDSMAJosine30