On Friday at Azencross in Loenhout, Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) decided to play a little game of catch me if you can.
This season, Brand has shown she can win pretty much anywhere—fast and frozen, mud mud and more mud, muddy and hilly—but the flat as a board course at Azencross seemed especially well-suited to her particular powerful skillset.
Midway through the race, however, it appeared Brand might get dropped from the lead group thanks to the powerful start from the season’s revelation Denise Betsema (Marlux – Bingoal). Brand recovered, and with two laps to go, the lead swelled to a massive group of nine.
That was the time for Brand to get playful. And by playful, I mean powerful.
Brand moved to the front and then a third of the way into the lap, turned up the watts. It was not a Van der Poel-ian acceleration, but rather a sustained effort. Her message: catch me, if you can.
Only Sanne Cant (IKO – Beobank) and Betsema could follow Brand’s power. At the bell, the lead group of nine was shredded.
The three riders stayed together until the finishing straight. Brand gamely took the lead, keeping a cautious eye on Cant to her left. When Cant showed she was ready to sprint, Brand popped out of her saddle and went all-in to the finish.
She crossed one bike length ahead of Cant to take the win.
A Good Show in Loenhout
Friday was a special day for Women’s cyclocross in Loenhout. The Helen100 Trophy hosted the first-ever Junior Women’s race in conjunction with a UCI cyclocross race.
Sofie van Rooijen of the Netherlands took the win, and Harriet Harnden of Great Britain finished second and Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary third.
Het eerste podium voor dames juniores kleurt internationaal:
— DVV Trofee (@DVVtrofee) December 28, 2018
With the spotlight shining brightly on Women’s ’cross, the Elite Women did their part to put on a good show. Betsema started fast on the damp afternoon. Her early aggression brought out Cant, Brand and Loes Sels (Pauwels Sauzen – Vastgoedservice). After one lap, a massive group of seven chased behind them.
After Betsema led the entire first lap, Cant made her move to the front by going on the inside shortly before a small run-up with a little rubbin’ is racin’. Shortly after Cant’s move, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon – Circus) joined the lead to make it a party of five.
After a brief stint on the front by Cant, Betsema took over lead duties once again. At the famed Loenhout rollers, the chase led by Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek Knight) appeared set to finally make the bridge. They came close, but two laps into the five-lap race, the five leaders led five chasers by six seconds.
In the third lap, Betsema made her play to get an Azencross win. She got a small lead of a few bike lengths at Pit 1 and in the process, appeared set to drop Brand, who flagged in the face of her fellow Dutch woman’s effort.
Although the conditions were not properly muddy, Loenhout was quite damp and a few of the corners on the course were quite slick. Betsema fell victim to one of the slick corners, wiping out and losing her small lead. Sels moved into the lead after Betsema’s spill. She did recover, but the slight delay also allowed Brand to rejoin the lead group.
Also joining the lead at the start/finish straight was the rest of the chase. With two to go, it was Sels, Betsema, Brand, Cant, Alvarado, Compton, Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions), Laura Verdonschot (Marlux – Bingoal) and Nikki Brammeier (Mudiiita) at the front.
Catch Me, If You Can
After nearly getting dropped not a half a lap ago, Brand roared to life at the start of Lap 4. Feeling good, she decided to play her own version of catch me if you can.
There was no big attack by brand, but she turned up the watts and forced the other women to follow her pace. Just one minute into the lap, the lead group of nine was already stringing out. The leaders in trying to follow Brand were Cant, then Betsema, with Sels and Verdonschot chasing behind them.
Brand entered the bell lap with two seconds on Cant and five on Betsema. Past Sels and Verdonschot, the rest of the group of nine was blown to smithereens.
Cant impressively bridged up to Brand at the end of the start/finish straight, and Betsema turned herself inside out to join them as well. Betsema finally made the catch shortly after Pit 1 to make it a lead group of three with Brand still on the front.
Brand blijft de concurrentie onder druk zetten.
— DVV Trofee (@DVVtrofee) December 28, 2018
The trio stayed together well into the last lap. Verdonschot did her best to bridge, but she could not quite get in the mix for the podium. Brand led the way with just the rollers and barriers left to go.
Brand pumped her way through the rollers and then kept her lead through the barriers. The finish would come down to a sprint.
The finish straight at Azencross was relatively long, giving the women some time to game things out. Brand sat in the saddle in the lead keeping an eagle eye on Cant just to her left. She looked, looked, looked and then when Cant showed the first twinge of going, she popped out of the saddle into her sprint.
The sprint obviously favored Brand, and she responded by keeping Cant at bay and crossing a bike length ahead to take the win with a finishing time of 40:02.
Cant took second and Betsema third.
Compton finished 10th, Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano) 15th, Sunny Gilbert (Van Dessel Factory Team) 17th, Courtenay McFadden (Pivot Cycles/Maxxis p/b Stan’s/DNA Cycling) 18th, Maghalie Rochette (CX Fever p/b Specialized) 20th, Ruby West (Specialized / TenSpeed Hero) 21st, Jenn Jackson (AWI Racing p/b the Crank and Sprocket) 28th, Jen Malik (Redkite Racing) 40th, Dana Gilligan (Next Wave) 41st, Emily Werner (Amy D. Foundation) 44th, Rebecca Gross (Zero D Racing) 47th and Corey Coogan Cisek (Amy D. Foundation) 51st.
Full results are below.
Elite Women Results: 2018 Azencross Loenhout
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|7||9||ALVARADO||Ceylin del Carmen||NED||0:40:40|
|19||54||VAN DE REE||Monique||NED||0:42:26|