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After years of fighting for the cyclocross world title, Lucinda Brand won the rainbow jersey on a sandy and wet course in Oostende. Dutch riders swept the podium with Annemarie Worst taking silver and Denise Betsema bronze.
“For a few years I just missed out and now it’s right. I always kept believing, even after that very fast start by Denise,” Brand said in a post-race interview. “I knew beforehand and especially after the U23 men’s race that you should never give up because the race is long and hard.”
The 2020 World Champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado’s race started rough with a crash in the very first corner. While some riders stumbled, Betsema led the field through the first sand section. Quickly Betsema gained time over Brand, Worst, Great Britain’s Evie Richards, and the rest of the race. At least riders didn’t have to fight elbow to elbow through the sand as the pace had stretched the field into single file early on.
Dutch riders held the top spots in the first lap, chased by Evie Richards, Clara Honsinger, and Christine Majerus. Betsemsa held a seven-second lead over Brand. Worst joined Brand in the second lap, chased by Alvarado and Kastelijn.
Clara Honsinger led a pack of non-Dutch riders including Richards, Majerus, and Sanne Cant just behind the former world champion Alvarado.
Into the third lap, Betsema had increased her lead to 11 seconds over Brand and Worst. Alvarado crossed the start-finish with 36 seconds to make up, with Kastelijn just behind and the group of Honsinger just over 45 seconds behind the leader.
In the sand on the third lap Brand and Worst briefly caught Betsema, and as Worst struggled through the deep sand Brand was able to pass Betsema. Brand set a new pace at the front of the race with Betsema close on her wheel.
Both Brand and Betsema made mistakes close to the finish of the third lap, the first time Brand was able to gap Betsema since catching her. The gap to Worst into the penultimate lap was eight seconds, with 39 seconds to Alvarado and the Honsinger group sitting 46 seconds back.
Worst caught Brand and Betsema in the fourth lap and took over the pacemaking on the massive flyover.
Into the final lap, Alvarado chased the three leaders with a 30-second deficit. Honsinger rode through in fifth 37-seconds behind. What had been a small group was broken up in the fourth lap and rode through the start-finish with seconds between them.
Through the sand Brand’s grimace led the race, with Worst close behind. Over the flyover, Brand held on to the lead, as Betsema finally felt the early race effort in her legs. Behind Betsema, Honsinger passed and left Alvarado behind to move into fourth.
Worst sprinted in front of Brand into the grass and mud section of the course, the last technical section before the finish, and when Brand took an inside line the two touched shoulders. Worst slid in the mud and hit the ground momentarily, allowing Brand to get the minimal lead she had been fighting for.
Brand made no mistakes in the finale taking the win over Worst, with Betsema crossing the finish line 19-seconds behind.
- BRAND Lucinda, NED
- WORST Annemarie, NED +0:08
- BETSEMA Denise, NED +0:19
- HONSINGER Clara, USA +0:52
- KASTELIJN Yara, NED +1:04
- ALVARADO Ceylin del Carmen, NED +1:12
- RICHARDS Evie, GB +1:13
- CANT Sanne, BEL +1:43
- BRANDAU Elisabeth, DEU +2:07
- MAJERUS Christine, LUX +2:08