To beat Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) at World Cup Heusden-Zolder, you have to be darn near perfect.
Coming into Wednesday, Vos had won the race six times in her career. Heading into the last lap, she was in the lead group and in good shape to win number seven.
Shortly before the uphill off-camber, Vos powered into the lead in her bid to take control of the race. However, coming off her big win at Namur on Sunday, Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) was ready to show she could have that perfect race and defeat Vos at a venue the seven-time world champion has owned.
Brand covered Vos’ move with a big effort after the off-camber. Not content to let Vos lead into the technical ups and downs, Brand powered around Vos and led into the first descent.
Vos, however, knows a thing or seven about winning at Zolder. She sprinted even with Brand on the stairs and then took the lead when remounting her bike. Now in the lead, Vos attacked again. Brand, now on the edge, briefly hesitated at the top of one of the steep ascents, giving Vos a three-second advantage.
Brand’s one blemish on an otherwise pristine ride gave Vos the opportunity she needed. Vos powered through the last of the technical section and onto the Circuit Zolder tarmac to take home her seventh career win at Zolder.
“I really like the circuit,” Vos said demurely after her win.
Zoom Zoom at Zolder
After Sunday’s wet, muddy conditions at Namur, temperatures in Heusden-Zolder dropped into the 30s, making the course hard and frozen in spots. The conditions made a normally fast track even faster.
As the 87-rider field raced down the Circuit Zolder track, Vos moved to the front to take the holeshot. Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing) and Annemarie Worst (Steylaerts – 777) were involved in a crash at the end of the holeshot, putting them way at the back 15 seconds into the race.
In the first lap, Vos made a bid to end the race from the start. She continued to lead for the first trip around the circuit and at one point held an eight-second advantage on a large chase of seven. A few riders bridged at the end of the lap, and one lap in, Vos, Sanne Cant (IKO – Beobank) and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon – Circus) were at the front. Brand and Nikki Brammeier (Mudiiita) chased close behind. After an 8:06 Lap 1, officials put six laps up on the counter.
Cant won at Zolder last year, and early in the second lap, she made a strong move to the front, showing she would not give up the Zolder crown without a fight. Vos covered, and then when Brand slipped out on a corner, the current and former world champions were off the front with a seven-second advantage.
Not surprisingly given the speed of racing, things came back together a bit at the end of the lap when Brand and Alvarado bridged to the front to make it a lead group of four after two laps.
In the early part of Lap 3, Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan – Charles) dragged Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek Knight) and Brammeier up to the lead group. Loes Sels (Pauwels Sauzen – Vastgoedservice) bridged as well to make it a lead group of eight at Pit 2. Things broke up again in the technical section, and midway through the race Brand, Vos, Cant and Alvarado were back at the front.
You Come at the Queen…
The race appeared to get a big shakeup midway through Lap 4 when Vos pulled off the lead group with a mechanical. As she stood at the entrance to the Zolder Woods trying to get her chain and derailleur working again, the chasers passed her, and she dropped back to eighth place.
Sensing an opportunity, Cant went to the front and pushed the pace. Vos, meanwhile, was cool as a cucumber and worked her way back up to the chase. With two to go, Cant, Brand and Alvarado led Vos, Brammeier, Kaptheijns and Sels by just six seconds.
After the long trip down the Circuit Zolder tarmac, the lead again became seven. This time Brammeier went to the front to lead the group out onto the course. Brammeier led until Kaptheijns put in an attack at Pit 2 that Vos covered. Vos powered up the false flat after the uphill off-camber, and Brand sat on her wheel, giving the two Dutchwomen a small advantage.
However, as happened all race long, things came back together on the tarmac. At the bell Vos, Brand, Alvarado, Kaptheijns and Cant had nine seconds on the chasers.
On the fast, relatively open Zolder course, the one place where gaps opened up on the afternoon was the technical section at the end of the circuit. Heading into the last lap, there was a sense that the race was to the uphill off-camber and first drop into the ups and downs.
Early in the last lap, Brand put in a dig that only Vos could follow. Brand held the lead until shortly before the off-camber when Vos powered past her into first. On the slight uphill after the off-camber, Vos dropped down to time trial mode while Brand and Cant tried to keep her torrid pace. Brand not only kept up with Vos but also passed her to take the lead into the first big drop.
Now in second, Vos drew even with Brand on the stairs and then passed her to take the lead on the remount. Cant chased a few seconds back, trying to maintain contact with her two Dutch rivals.
It has been said that if you come at the Queen, you best not miss.
Brand, sitting second wheel, hesitated at the crest of one of the steep ups. That moment was all Vos needed to get her winning gap.
Vos’ advantage was only about three seconds, but she held it down the last descent and onto the finishing straight to take her third World Cup win of the 2018/19 series and her seventh career victory at the Zolder circuit.
Brand held on for second, and Cant finished third.
With the win, Vos extended her overall World Cup series lead to 56 points over Cant. Worst sits in third, 100 points behind Vos.
Compton finished 13th, Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing CX) took 16th, Kaitie Keough (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) 17th, Jenn Jackson (AWI Racing p/b the Crank and Sprocket) 28th, Maghalie Rochette (CX Fever p/b Specialized) 30th, Ruby West (Specialized / TenSpeed Hero) 41st, Courtenay McFadden (Pivot Cycles / Maxxis p/b Stan’s/DNA Cycling) 43rd, Magdeleine Vallieres Mill (Quebecor / Stingray) 47th, Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano) 51st, Sunny Gilbert (Van Dessel Factory Team) 52nd, Elle Anderson (Milwaukee – Alpha Motorhomes) 56th, Dana Gilligan (Next Wave) 70th, Jen Malik (Redkite Racing) 77th and Sidney McGill (Focus CX Canada) 83rd.
Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions) returned to racing after tearing a knee ligament at Druivencross two and a half weeks ago. She finished 29th.
Full results are below.
Elite Women Results: 2018 World Cup Heusden-Zolder
|4||25||ALVARADO Ceylin del Carmen||NED||49:05|
|8||28||VAN DER HEIJDEN Inge||NED||49:16|
|11||65||ARZUFFI Alice Maria||ITA||49:37|
|18||35||NORBERT RIBEROLLE Marion||FRA||50:23|
|21||57||GONZALEZ BLANCO Lucia||ESP||50:9|
|22||32||VAN ANROOIJ Shirin||NED||51:02|
|29||2||VAN LOY Ellen||BEL||51:43|
|34||30||DE BOER Sophie||NED||52:04|
|36||56||NUÑO PALACIO Aida||ESP||52:20|
|39||94||VAS Kata Blanka||HUN||52:29|
|47||52||VALLIERES MILL Magdeleine||CAN||53:17|
|57||58||IBARROLA ALBIZUA Luisa||ESP||54:24|
|64||61||DIAZ LOPEZ Paula||ESP||55:15|
|68||59||TRABAZO BRAGADO Irene||ESP||55:6|
|69||60||TREVILLA SAMPERIO Sandra||ESP||56:14|
|76||78||HINZ Katharina Julia||GER||LAP|
|78||62||PARAJON FUENTES Maria||ESP||LAP|
|80||63||CUETO VEGA Sara||ESP||LAP|