By the books, it was a déjà vu kind of race day for the Elite Women, as Sanne Cant (IKO Enertherm-Beobank) narrowly clinched the win ahead of Sophie de Boer (Kalas-NNOF), Elle Anderson (Elle Anderson Racing) achieved an impressive eighth, and Ellen van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions) started strong, only to fall back to clinch the final podium spot in third place.

Racers had one of the most technically-demanding courses of the season to tackle in the final chapter of the Super Prestige. Ultimately, their race lasted almost fifty minutes, and all but the long stretch of pavement was greasy, rutted mud and sand.

Van Loy fell into her normal role, sprinting down the starting straight and nabbing the holeshot and setting the early pace. Sophie de Boer spent the first lap of the race battling through the masses while trying to stay cool. De Boer spoke to Telenet Play Sports about her start: “It wasn’t the goal to start that slow. I just started poorly and then I got held up in traffic, with some riders crashing in front of me. I had to close that gap and realized I was already at my maximum.” Despite this, she was quickly at the front of the race, breaking the top ten by the end of the first lap.

As Van Loy sped up and down the still-tacky tiered steps and descents, Sanne Cant closed in. Van Loy slipped and briefly fell on a steep run-up, only to slide again in the following corner. Cant saw Van Loy’s bobble, and dismounted before encountering the greasy mud, thus cutting into Van Loy’s lead.

Nikki Bremmeier, on the comeback trail after an awful crash last Saturday, worked up to third during the first lap, and had no perspective of Cant’s or Van Loy’s line choice down a steep, off-camber descent that was reminiscent of the killer hill at 2017 US National Championships. The brave of the bunch chose to ride down the slick descent, but many dug their toe spikes in, held onto the fences, and slid their way down the hill on foot.

At the end of the first ten-minute lap, it was Cant across the line first, with Van Loy on her wheel. De Boer was quickly gaining on the lead duo, passing Brammeier, last weekend’s Krawatencross winner Maud Kaptheijns (Team Steylaerts), and Laura Verdonshot (Marlux-Napoleon Games), who were less than 30 seconds behind. Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team), Loes Sels (Telenet Fidea Lions), Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado, and Alicia Franck (Marlux-Napoleon Games) formed a chase group, and were nearly 40 seconds behind the leaders at the line. Del Carmen Alvarado reported that the first big run up took her nearly a minute to climb on this first lap, and 30 seconds on the second lap, putting the grueling nature of this course into perspective.

On the second lap, Cant seemed to have the rideable sections memorized, and quickly dismounted and remounted throughout the technical course, putting a sizeable gap on Van Loy. Riders were getting very creative with their lines, as well as the decision to ride or dismount. Verdonschot opted to run the long sand section, and appeared to traverse it in a similar timeframe as racers who fishtailed their way through it.

Cant attacked on the steep off-camber descent, but got off-balance and slipped her wheel, allowing Van Loy the opportunity to redeem herself by catching Cant in the same 180-degree corner where she was overtaken in the previous lap. This also gave De Boer a chance to close her gap, and she grabbed onto Cant’s wheel coming into another long sand pit.

Van Loy, in a cruel twist of fate, became tangled in an uphill off-camber left-hander, and De Boer scooted around her on the inside in an attempt to stay with Cant, who charged ahead and reclaimed her lead.

Cant swung into the pits to exchange her now mud-coated bike [see a profile of Cant’s Worlds-Winning Stevens Super Prestige here], and De Boer, Van Loy, and Kapthiejns, quick on Van Loy’s heels, followed suit. As if racers needed any more to contend with on this sloppy, rutted, demoralizing course, the wind had started to pick up, and the course tape flapped and snapped at the edges of the course. Elle Anderson was picking off riders one by one, and cracked the top 10 by the end of the second lap.

De Boer and Cant continued their intense duel, both weaving their heads back and forth with each pedal stroke, showing signs of fatigue but continuing to hammer through. De Boer would put time on Cant on the slick descents; Cant had a small crash mid-race, and did not recover from it until the final lap. Cant would launch out of the saddle and sweep around De Boer on the straight-aways.

On some parts of the course I was technically better but overall Sanne was stronger,” De Boer said.

The tension grew and the crowd was cheering wildly as Cant followed De Boers’ line down the dreaded slope. It was Cant out front as they entered the muddy chicane, the duo lapping a rider moving at half of their blazing pace.

Cant was explosive, lunging out of the saddle as she went up and over the large ramp, putting a few bike lengths ahead of De Boer into the barriers, and it was Cant first onto the pavement, her face and clear lenses splattered with mud. De Boer hung her head, appearing exhausted and disappointed, seven seconds behind her.

Van Loy held off Kaptheijns to secure a third place in the race and the general Super Prestige classification. Elle Anderson, who took eighth in the race, finished fourth overall in the series.

In addition to Anderson, three other Americans lined up for Superprestige Noordzeecross Middelkerke, with Julie Wright in 22nd, Christine Vardaros in 29th and Erin Faccone in 31st.

2017 Hansgrohe Superprestige #8 - Noordzeecross Middelkerke - Elite Women's Results

1Sanne CANTBEL2749:33:0080
2Sophie DE BOERNED2749:42:0060
3Ellen VAN LOYBEL3750:40:0040
4Maud KAPTHEIJNSNED2350:41:0030
5Nikki BRAMMEIERGBR3150:55:0025
6Helen WYMANGBR3651:00:0020
7Laura VERDONSCHOTBEL2151:23:0017
8Elle ANDERSONUSA2952:25:0015
9Loes SELSBEL3252:52:0012
10Alicia FRANCKBEL2353:13:0010
11Karen VERHESTRAETENBEL2653:42:008
12Pauline DELHAYEFRA2854:02:006
13Ceylin DEL CARMEN ALVARADONED1954:05:004
14Annemarie WORSTNED2254:21:002
15Joyce VANDERBEKENBEL3354:40:001
16Veerle GOOSSENSNED2454:48:00
17Suzanne VERHOEVENBEL2156:06:00
18Geerte HOEKENED2756:14:00
19Amira MELLORGBR2056:15:00
20Linda TER BEEKNED3056:46:00
21Esther VAN DER BURGNED1956:57:00
22Julie WRIGHTUSA3157:27:00
23Shana MAESBEL2258:20:00
24Aurelie VERMEIRBEL25
29Christine VARDAROSUSA48
36Valerie BOONENBEL24