The European racing calendar kicked off on Sunday with the Brico Cross Eeklo in Belgium. Many of the big names in Women’s cyclocross were there to get some 2017 race experience ahead of the U.S. World Cups that start next weekend.

Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon) received a tough challenge from Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions), but the world champion made her move with two laps to go and held off Van Loy to take the victory.

The race started with a selection of six riders quickly establishing itself at the front. The group included Cant, Van Loy, Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan-Charles), Sophie de Boer (LFT Parkhotel-Valkenburg CT), Annemarie Worst (ERA-Circus) and Laura Verdonschot (Marlux-Napoleon Games). Van Loy took her customary place at the front of the group and drove the pace early on.

Early in lap three, Cant and Van Loy started to apply pressure to the group beginning at the series of steep hills at the start of the lap. The two broke away from the group and Kaptheijns and De Boer formed the chase duo. Cant and Van Loy’s attack broke the group up, but Kaptheijns was able to recover and she made the catch through the start/finish at the mid point of the race.

For the first half of the race, Cant was content to let Van Loy and Kaptheijns drive the pace, but starting with lap four she started to assert herself as the race leader. Kaptheijns, however, was determined to let the world champion know that the victory would not come easy, and she matched Cant’s effort and again took over the lead position halfway into the fourth of six laps.

Cant made a move on the steep ascents early in the lap earlier in the race, and with two laps to go, she struck again through the series of steeps. The lead trio of Cant Van Loy and Kaptheijns passed the start/finish together, and when they had emerged from the steep, technical section, Cant had broken the group up and taken a three-second lead on Van Loy. The lead during the penultimate lap would swell to six seconds and when the Cant came across to hear the bell, her advantage was down to just three seconds.

The afternoon’s proceedings were by no means decided heading into the last lap. Van Loy looked very strong throughout the race, and the gap she needed to close was just three seconds. For much of the first half of the last lap, Van Loy dangled tantalizingly close to Cant and was able to see her just a few score of meters ahead on each of the course’s many straightaways.

The catch, however, would never happen.

Cant found the winning kick halfway through the lap and slowly pulled away. She likely felt at home powering and running through the long sand section right before the finish and then came across the line with a close, but comfortable margin back to Van Loy, who finished second.

Kaptheijns was able to maintain some of the strength she had early in the race and slowly pulled away from De Boer in the chase for third. De Boer finished fourth and Laura Verdonschot rounded out the top five. Englishwoman Nikki Brammeier (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) had a strong race, finishing seventh.

Stay tuned for more from Brico Cross Eeklo.

Brico Cross Eeklo Fast Results

  1. Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon)
  2. Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions)
  3. Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan-Charles)
  4. Sophie de Boer (LFT Parkhotel – Valkenburg CT)
  5. Laura Verdonschot (Marlux-Napoleon Games)
  6. Loes Sels (KDL Cycling Team)
  7. Nikki Brammeier (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team)
  8. Kim Van de Steene (Kon. VC ‘T Meetjesland-Kness)
  9. Alicia Franck (Lares-Doltcini CT)
  10. Joyce Vanderbeken (Team Mahieu – Kona -Vandermee)