It has long been said that the cyclocross course at the Citadel of Namur is one for the mountain bikers with the challenging descents and long climbs seemingly suited to the skillset of riders at home on technical singletrack.
Recently, however, Lucinda Brand (Telenet Baloise Lions) has had something to say about that supposed reputation.
Brand won the annual pre-Christmas classic last year, and on Sunday, she quickly put herself at the front of the race with fellow young Dutch riders Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon – Circus) and Annemarie Worst (777).
After dropping Worst, Brand put the pressure on Alvardo with a surge at the start of the third lap. When an on-the-limit Alvarado could not ride the downhill sandy stairs cleanly, Brand seized the opportunity to attack and open a decisive gap.
Not even an eventful last lap could hold Brand back from getting her second-straight win on the famed slopes of the Citadel of Namur.
One for the Road Bike-Sters
With its steep, technical descents and leg-bursting climbs, Namur has long been said to be a course for the “mountain biker-sters.” That was seemingly the case heading into Sunday’s World Cup Namur, with rains all week turning the technical descents into a sloppy mess and organizers redesigning the course to be even more challenging than previous years.
Getting things started on the uphill holeshot was a rider with a background in road racing in Yara Kastelijn (777). Joining her at the front after a fast start were the usual young Dutch suspects of Ceylin Alvarado and Annemarie Worst as well the U23 World Cup overall leader Anna Kay (Experza Pro CX) of Great Britain.
Alvarado, winner of the Koksijde World Cup, quickly went on the attack and got a gap on the leaders at the end of the 3-minute prologue. The slopes of Namur are known to be unkind, and Alvarado soon crashed on the first tight, twisty descent. Worst and the other chasers bridged up.
One of those chasers was Lucinda Brand, who started off the front row but quickly moved up. After the sand-on-stairs descent, the leaders were now Worst, Alvarado, Brand and Kay. Chasing them were a big group that included Maghalie Rochette (Specialized x Feedback Sports), Inge van der Heijden (CCC – Liv), Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek Knight), Sanne Cant (IKO – Beobank), Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing CX) and Kastelijn.
After Alvarado’s early aggression, it was Worst’s turn to go on the attack at the end of the very eventful Lap 1. She pushed it up the steep run-up and earned a 4-second lead after the 1st of 5 laps. Alvarado and Brand chased, while Kay fell off the pace.
The slopes of Namur are known to be unkind, and at the start of Lap 2, Worst crashed on the first tight, twisty descent. Brand and Alvarado passed her, and as they rode away from the feature, Worst fell back, seemingly shaken from her earthbound encounter.
At the end of the 2nd lap, Brand and Alvarado had a 13-second lead over Worst. Behind the lead trio, Richards moved up into 4th, and a group of Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team), Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX), Kay and Compton sat a minute off the lead.
Thus far in the action-packed race, the story had been one of riders attacking but then having those attacks ended when they come to harm. At the start of Lap 3, Brand tempted fate with an attack of her own.
The powerful road rider rode like a mountain bike-ster down the first descent, putting pressure on Alvarado. This time, fate did not win out, as Alvarado mishandled the bottom of the sand-on-stairs descent and had to dismount at the bottom.
A dismount there likely would have been no-harm, no-foul, but with the exit a deceptively steep cobbled climb, Alvarado had to run a long way before remounting her bike. Meanwhile, the powerful Brand took full advantage of a section where she was strong throughout the afternoon.
At the end of that 3rd lap, Brand’s lead was up to 8 seconds. There were, however, still two 2 to go, and if the first 60% of the race were prologue, anything could happen in those last 2 trips around the challenging circuit.
Lap 4 quickly became Brand time. The Telenet Baloise Lion roared through the challenging circuit and turned in her fastest lap by 11 seconds. Her tear through the penultimate lap extended her lead to 27 seconds.
Meanwhile, the chase for fourth got really spicy. After Richards took over fourth position, Honsinger continued her forward charge and by the time she got the bell, she was up to fourth place with Richards and Nash nearby.
Through four laps, Brand had ridden darn near perfect. However, she did put in a massive fourth lap, and at the start of Lap 5, it appeared to catch up with her.
What do they say? Ah yes, the slopes of Namur are known to be unkind.
Brand crashed on the tight, twisty descent and gave back a few seconds of her lead. She then compounded her issues by mishandling the bottom of the sand-on-stairs descent at the same place Alvarado did. Brand too had to run a good chunk of the cobbled climb.
As Alvarado cleanly hit the bottom of the sand section, she could see Brand up in front of her. There was a chance the renewed sense of energy that comes from bringing the leader into sight could make the conclusion of the Elite Women’s race very interesting.
Brand, however, was having none of that. Earlier in the race, she got her decisive gap on that cobbled climb, and in the bell lap, the steep cobbled climb helped her recover and push the gap back out at a critical moment in the race.
“With some aggression, I was able to push the gap on the uphill,” she said after the race.
Brand’s last push gave her a “comfortable” margin, and she held her lead to win back-to-back at Namur for the first time since Compton did it in 2012 and 2013.
Alvarado finished a strong second, and Worst held on for third.
Richards passed Honsinger in the last lap to take fourth. Nash took fifth and Honsinger sixth. Compton outsprinted Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano) for 7th. Marianne Vos (CCC – Liv) was a non-factor at the pointy end of the race, but she finished the race in 9th. Rochette rounded out the top 10.
Elite Women Results: 2019 World Cup Namur
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|2||15||ALVARADO||Ceylin del Carmen||NED||0:45:21|
|14||17||VAN DER HEIJDEN||Inge||NED||0:48:34|