Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) took the win in Besançon after going solo early in the first lap, increasing her lead in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup at the competition’s halfway point.
Cold and treacherous conditions awaited the riders on Besançon’s mud-caked course. The snow that paid its first visit to Europe’s low countries over the weekend hadn’t hung around, but the ground was damp and the air bitterly cold.
Local favourites, sisters Helene and Perrine Clauzel (A.S. Bike Crossteam), led the race onto the first passage through the grass, but Brand took the front up the stairs for the first time, and promptly went clear.
Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and teammate Fem van Empel charged after the world champion, but by the end of the first lap, the race for the win already looked over. U23 World Cup leader Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix) was solid as ever, and the best of the rest (not Dutch) was Pan American champion Maghalie Rochette from Canada.
The attritional conditions was beating up all but the most capable and in-form riders by the penultimate lap. Brand still led by a convincing margin of about twenty seconds, while behind, Rochette had overhauled Betsema for second position on the course, putting a handful of seconds between her PanAm jersey and her Dutch rivals.
Brand soared to inevitable victory by 26 seconds to Rochette who rode a defiant race to snatch the runner-up spot. The drama on the final lap fell to U23 riders Van Empel and Pieterse, who ultimately crossed the line in fourth and fifth after battling Betsema for third place.