With the Zeven World Cup also taking place this past Saturday, cyclocross fans were treated to a Thanksgiving treat of back-to-back races featuring many of the world’s best riders. Sunday’s race was the Flandriencross IJsboerke Ladies Trophy (the women’s version of the DVV Verzekeringen Trofee series) race in Hamme, Belgium.

Flandriencross can also be referred to as the Bike Race Formerly Known as Bolleke Cross. In 2014, organizers changed the name to Flandriencross in honor of hometown hero and four-time Flandrien – and 2016 Olympic Road Race – winner Greg Van Avermaet. The Flandrien of the Year award is an annual rider’s choice award for Belgium’s best cyclist. (Given the Belgium vibe adopted by many American cyclocrossers, perhaps it is time to change the name of the Trek CXC Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin to MattKellyCross.)

The Flandriencross circuit featured a fast course that exchanged Zeven’s grass for tacky, well-worn dirt. The circuit began with a deceptively tricky technical section featuring a series of dips and small rises that put a premium on being clear at the front of the race. After this challenge, riders dropped into a small forest that featured a rip n’ ride track that would put a grin on any racer’s face, and a power section along a pond that eventually led out to the start/finish straight.

Sunday’s women’s race played out as many American UCI weekend Sundays do. Tired riders from the big race the day before sized each other up and waited until the last lap to go full bore for the win.

At Flandriencross, a large group of seven riders rode as a group for five laps with no big attacks before yesterday’s Zeven World Cup winner, Sanne Cant (IKO Enertherm-Beobank), launched a decisive attack through the rollers. It was all she needed to hold on for the win over Maud Kaptheijns (Team Steylaerts) and DVV Trophy series leader Thalita de Jong (Rabobank Liv) and stay perfect for the weekend.

Sanne Cant is on top in Gavere. 2016 Superprestige Gavere Elite Women. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Sanne Cant wins a close one again. photo: Sanne Cant is on top in Gavere. 2016 Superprestige Gavere Elite Women. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

The start of Sunday’s race looked similar to many 2016 afternoons with Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea Lions) taking the holeshot and setting the early pace at the front of the race. One minute in, it looked like the race may separate early on as several traffic jams in the dipsy-do section allowed Van Loy, Cant, and Kaptheijns to escape off the front and open up a small five second lead. The leading trio’s gap would be short lived, and the race came back together with ten riders, including American Ellen Noble (Aspire Racing), finishing the first lap within five seconds of one another.

Fans in the U.S. watching the live feed via Trek got a front row seat for the technical, competitive racing, as Noble had a brief tangle and pleasantries exchange with another racer.

Van Loy remained active at the front during the second lap, and a lead group including Cant, de Jong, Kaptheijns, Pavla Havlikova (MRM Avalon Pro Cycling), and Laura Verdonschot (Lares WoawDeals) emerged behind the Telenet-Fidea Lion racer. A second chase of five that included Noble and Sophie de Boer (Kalas NNOF) dangled a handful of seconds behind them.

On a straight through the pit section, Sanne Cant pulled through to the front and started to up the pace of the lead group. With the large chase close to the lead group, it appeared that she deemed it time to shake the race up a bit and attempt to form a smaller selection at the head of the race. The move worked, as the lead group of six extended their gap on the chase and only de Boer was able to emerge from the trailing group.

The next several laps continued to play out like a Sunday UCI weekend, with tired riders waiting for others to make a mistake and saving their matches for the last lap or two. Cant, de Jong, and de Boer all traded time on the front. Van Loy reasserted herself at the front heading into the sixth and final lap. With race bibs 1 through 5 in the lead group, fans were definitely hoping that the first five tactical laps would just be a prelude to a slugfest among the who’s who of European women.

The women, of course, would not disappoint. The technical climbs and descents after the start/finish straight gave riders fits all afternoon, and given the number of racers still in contention at the start of the bell lap, there was definitely a premium on being the first rider through. One dabbed foot or hesitation on an uphill could provide the one or two seconds the lead rider would need to open up a definitive gap heading into the remainder of the final lap.

Cant didn’t leave anything to chance. She pulled around Van Loy to enter the series of ups and downs first, riding them flawlessly and emerging from the section with a four second lead. The attack was not without its toll, as the usually resolute Cant flashed a grimace that showed just how hard she worked to get that small gap. Kaptheijns and De Jong emerged from the chase as the two riders left with a shot at catching Cant.

The Belgian kept a small three-second gap along the pond and through the woods, as Kaptheijns and De Jong did all they could to catch Cant, but everything they had would not be enough to close the gap. The Belgian came across the line seconds ahead of her competitors and Cant didn’t hide her emotions, crossing the line with an outstretched tongue and demonstrative chest thump to celebrate her perfect cyclocross weekend.

The win at Flandriencross was her second victory at the race and sixth straight podium in Hamme. If she manages to win a few more, perhaps we will be looking at another name change to CantCross in the future.

Maud Kaptheijns won the duel for second against the World Champion to take second. Ellen Van Loy took fourth, and Laura Verdonschot rounded out the top five just 12 seconds behind Cant.

Three Americans took the start, with Elle Anderson (Elle Anderson Racing) making a strong comeback after a disappointing World Cup in Zeven to finish 13th in Hamme. Noble finished 16th, with Amanda Naumann (SDG) in 17th.

2016 Women’s U23 World Champion Evie Richards continued her strong weekend and return to top-level international cyclocross, with a 12th place, just ahead of Anderson, after finishing 14th in the World Cup in Zeven.

Despite taking third at Flandriencross, Thalita de Jong opened up a massive lead in the overall DVV Verzekeringen Trophy standings. She currently sits 1’46” ahead of any cyclocross student’s favorite teacher, full-time school instructor Jolien Verschueren, who had a tough 11th place finish that was one minute behind de Jong. Cant sits in third 2’21” behind the leader.

2016 Flandriencross – Hamme Race Videos:

2016 Flandriencross Hamme Results - Elite Women - DVV Verzekeringen Trofee

1Sanne CantIKO Enertherm-Beobank45:33:00
2Maud KaptheijnsTeam Steylaerts+0:00:02
3Thalita De JongRabobank-Liv+0:00:03
4Ellen Van LoyTelenet Fidea Lions+0:00:06
5Pavla HavlikovaMRM Avalon Pro Cycling+0:00:07
6Laura VerdonschotMarlux-Napoleon Games+0:00:12
7Sophie De BoerKalas-NNOF+0:00:23
8Alicia Franck+0:00:36
9Loes SelsTelenet Fidea Lions+0:00:49
10Karen VerhestraetenLares-WoawDeals+0:00:54
11Jolien VerschuerenTelenet Fidea Lions+0:01:04
12Evie Richards+0:01:13
13Elle AndersonElle Anderson Racing+0:01:22
14Lindy Van Anrooij+0:02:00
15Ellen NobleAspire+0:02:18
16Githa Michiels+0:02:33
17Amanda Nauman+0:02:38
18Kim Van De Steene+0:02:39
19Monique Van De Ree+0:03:16
20Joyce VanderbekenAA Drink-Kalas+0:03:56
21Aurélie Vermeir+0:04:07
22Eva Maria PalmAA Drink-Kalas+0:04:08
23Axelle BellaertAA Drink-Kalas+0:04:11
24Julia Boschker+0:04:13
25Laure Michels+0:05:19
26Laure Michels+0:06:06
27Jara NoëlAA Drink-Kalas+0:06:25
28Meg De Bruyne+0:07:07