We have all heard the saying that picking up a skill after time away is “like riding a bike.”
This weekend, 2015 world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Canyon) got to test out that adage as it applies to cyclocross. Ferrand Prevot finished fourth in her first race back on Saturday in Essen and on Sunday, she got another chance to break through onto the podium.
A win at the Vlaamse Druivencross would not come easy. A healthy dusting of snow and sleet turned to mud, ice and slush by the time the afternoon races rolled around, and Ferrand Prevot had to fight off several past winners, including three-time victor Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek/Knight Composites).
Once on the course, Ferrand Prevot proved that riding a cyclocross bike in the snow and mud is just like … riding a bike.
Ferrand Prevot made the lead selection that quickly formed in the messy conditions and then worked her way to the front by staying mistake-free while riders crashed and bobbled around her.
In the third of four laps, the selection dwindled to Ferrand Prevot and Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb). Ferrand Prevot put pressure on her Dutch rival and when Brand crashed on a steep descent for the second time, Ferrand Prevot was gone to a victory in just the second race of her comeback.
The Mother of All ’Crosses was the scene of the Mother of All Returns.
Noble Starts Hot in the Snow
Ellen Noble (Aspire Racing) has had a good couple of weeks. She finished second at Flandriencross and then celebrated her birthday with some time in Paris. On Sunday, she continued the celebration by asserting herself from the opening whistle. Noble took the holeshot and then shot up the slick, opening climb to open up a gap on the rest of the field.
Noble maintained her five-second gap on the rest of the riders until a long climb with several turns slowed her down. Noble had to dismount and run through several turns while the other riders around her stayed on the bike and slogged up the climb. Yesterday at Essen saw the run give Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon) her winning gap on Nikki Brammeier (Boels-Dolmans). On Sunday, Noble would have no such luck on foot.
Cant and Brand took advantage of the opportunity and slogged up the climb into first. The remainder of the first lap played out slowly, as riders did everything they could to find traction and stay upright on the descents and through the slick corners.
If there is a second story of the afternoon, besides PFP’s comeback, it would certainly be the snowy conditions reminiscent of what riders in the U.S. dealt with in at the North Carolina Grand Prix on Saturday.
After the first lap, a clear selection had formed. Brammeier, Brand, Cant, Ferrand Prevot and Compton led the way. Noble and Annemarie Worst (ERA-Circus) were not far behind.
The Mother of All Returns
Things started to move early in the second lap. Cant accelerated to the front and led the way up the long opening climb. Cant tends to make her attacks later in the race, but with a gap after the climb, she opted to push the pace off the front. Ferrand Prevot lurked in the chase and the conditions made it one of those race where you want to be riding your own lines. Would Cant use a different plan to win her fifth straight race?
Not quite. Brand made the catch midway through the lap and then Cant got caught up during a dismount on a slick off-camber. Brand pulled away and Ferrand Prevot accelerated past her.
Few riders were immune to mishaps on the afternoon. Brand crashed on the steep descent during the first lap, and Cant’s mishap was just the latest. Someone once told me, “stay on your bike.” Perhaps trite, but it proved to be good advice on the snowy, muddy course.
The one rider who did stay on her bike was Ferrand Prevot. After Cant dropped back, she moved into second and then she and Brand began dueling for the lead at the start of the penultimate lap. The French star took the first lead of her comeback early in the third lap. Brand countered and then Ferrand Prevot followed suit. Neither would go easily.
Once she re-took the lead midway through the third lap, Ferrand Prevot began to put pressure on Brand. Ferrand Prevot knows her way around off-road while Brand’s background is primarily on the road, so the French star was more than ready to exploit her handling ability.
The descent where Brand crashed earlier came immediately following a run-up. Riders had to quickly remount, clip in and then navigate the steep drop that was becoming increasingly rutted as the afternoon progressed.
On the third time down the drop, Ferrand Prevot aced it, but Brand struggled to get clipped in. With both legs off the pedals, she tried to maintain control but eventually the ruts and bumps won out. Brand went down and Ferrand Prevot had a healthy gap.
After Brand’s crash, Ferrand Prevot had a 23-second lead heading into the bell lap while Cant caught up with Brand to form the last-lap chase. Compton dropped back from Cant when she slipped out shortly before the steep run-up toward the end of lap three.
Ferrand Prevot accomplished the task of staying on her bike during the last lap to capture the win. For PFP on this afternoon, winning a cyclocross race was just like riding a bike.
During the last lap, Brand and Cant battled for the second podium spot. Brand again got held up after running into the course barrier, and Cant looked poised for a second-place finish. Brand, however, would not go easily. She recovered and passed Cant. Cant’s final push to second came when she ran past Brand on one of the steep ups.
The second-place finish snapped the four-race winning streak Cant brought into Druivencross. Brand held on to take third.
Compton finished fourth and Brameier fifth. Noble held on to take ninth.
Helen Wyman (Kona Factory CX Team) took 11th, Emma White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) finished 16th, Minnesota native Corey Coogan Cisek (Power Fix) finished on the lead lap in 33rd and Christine Vardaros placed 36th.
Women's Results: 2017 Vlaamse Druivencross
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|10||19||VAN DE STEENE||Kim||BEL||0:41:59|
|28||36||VAN DEN HOEK||Bianca||NED||0:47:18|
|31||35||VAN DE PUTTE||Kim||BEL||0:48:09|
|34||40||VAN LOY||Tess||BEL||-1 LAP|