Sunday was the day of the annual pilgrimage to the famed sandpit of Zonhoven. Sanne Cant (IKO – Beobank) has famously made a name for herself in De Kuil, winning there five times, including last year, but with the young Dutch women dominating the season thus far, she certainly had her work cut out for her.
After Inge van der Heijden (CCC – Liv) took the holeshot, another rider becoming known for her fast starts in Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon – Circus) took over the lead, with Cant following behind in second.
By the time the leaders made it through De Kuil for the first time, Cant found herself in a Dutch sandwich with Alvarado, Van der Heijden and Annemarie Worst (777).
At the beginning of the second lap, Cant started to fade off the blistering pace being set by the three young Dutch riders, and she fell back toward a group that included Alice Maria Arzuffi (777), Manon Bakker (Experza Pro CX) and Yara Kastelijn (777).
After the second lap, the lead trio had a small lead on Cant, and the next group of riders trailed by 7 seconds.
At the start of the third lap, Cant made contact with the Dutch trio to make the leaders four again. It appeared, at least for the moment, the Queen of De Kuil was back in the game with a chance to pick up her sixth Elite win at the famed venue.
Cant’s recovery was thanks to a momentary lull at the front because almost on cue after she made contact, Worst and Alvarado ripped things open at the front. The two attacked and got a quick gap at the beginning of Lap 3 and left the others to pick up the pieces. Van der Heijden bridged, while Cant dropped back and Arzuffi took over the role as number one chaser.
Halfway into the 6-lap race, it was Worst, Alvarado and Van der Heijden, with Arzuffi 3 seconds behind. Missing out of the Dutch party thus far was Euro Champ Kastelijn.
In Lap 4, it was Alvarado’s turn to go to the whip. Worst followed, while both Arzuffi and Van der Heijden pushed to keep pace with the latest powerful attack. They would recover, and with 2 to go, it was again 4 at the front, with Kastelijn just 5 seconds back.
The start of the penultimate lap signaled a new addition to the early-lap attack party, with Arzuffi accelerating at the front in the flat section leading up to De Kuil. Alvarado grabbed her wheel while the other riders pushed a big gear trying to match the latest fast pace at the front. The battle of attrition, with attack after big attack continued.
After Arzuffi’s move, Alvarado again took control with a ripping first descent into De Kuil. She stayed on the gas and again drew Worst out. Arzuffi and Van der Heijden were again back to a dangling situation along with Kastelijn. However, at the bell, the 3 riders still faced just a 6-second gap to the two leaders.
Up until this point, Alvarado and Worst had been the two aggressors and their efforts finally gave them a gap. Now came keeping that gap and then making a move at the right time to get the win. The stage was set for a Super bell lap at Zonhoven.
Arzuffi and Kastelijn appeared to pull closer on the flats, but with Worst leading the way into De Kuil for the first time, the two leaders were noticeably quicker than the chasers, and they extended their gap by a bit. Worst continued to lead the way through the next sandy climb up the wall-like slope of The Pit.
Midway through the Laatste Ronde, the race was a story of pairs. Worst and Alvarado for the win, teammates Arzuffi and Kastelijn for the bronze.
As riders dodged heavy lapped traffic resembling a traffic jam on an urban highway, Alvarado and Worst got tied up with one another. It was only momentary, but it did allow the chasers to come a little closer.
Exiting the sandy section, Alvardo jumped on the afterburners and attacked, getting a small gap. It appeared the argy-bargy with lapped riders could have an impact on the race’s final result, but as she had done all race, Worst followed the powerful move.
As the riders neared the final paved sprint, Worst accelerated leading off the sand and got the jump on her rival. She accelerated down the finishing straight with exquisite timing, and Alvarado conceded the victory to her Dutch elder.
Kastelijn wrapped up third and Arzuffi took fourth. Cant finished sixth after a healthy dose of Hero Cam time during the race.
Top 10 results are below. Stay tuned for full results as they become available.
Superprestige Zonhoven Elite Women Top 10
1. Annemarie Worst
2. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado
3. Yara Kastelijn
4. Alice Maria Arzuffi
5. Inge van der Heijden
6. Sanne Cant
7. Shirin van Anrooij
8. Manon Bakker
9. Laura Verdonschot
10. Ellen Van Loy