Marianne Vos (Netherlands) took a phenomenal eighth Cyclocross World Championship title in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at the end of a fierce head-to-head battle with defending champ Lucinda Brand (Netherlands). The battle for third was almost as exciting as for first, with Silvia Persico (Italy) ultimately upsetting the Dutch party to grab bronze.
This weekend’s racing has so far borne little resemblance to the rain-soaked rehearsal in October when the CX World Cup made its second stop in Fayetteville, where Brand took victory. This time around, the ground is considerably dryer, hard-packed, even a little dusty in places, and the course incredibly fast.
The women’s elite race got off to a furious start with the Dutch contingent amassed at the front. By the end of the first lap, three former champions in Vos, Brand and Alvarado had stretched out a small advantage, with Persico leading the chase.
The punchy Italian made it to the front after the long climb, but as soon as she made contact, Brand slammed the hammer down, putting Persico and Alvarado in trouble and setting up the inevitable showdown between herself and Vos.
Vos left Brand on the front for a couple of laps, fastening herself to her compatriot’s wheel until the defending champion, wary of providing an armchair ride, swung wide through a corner late in lap four to force Vos into the wind.
With time wearing away, Brand allowed Vos control of the penultimate lap, the seven-time world champion (so far) dictating the rhythm – punch then stall, punch then stall, and repeat – but Brand was never far off the wheel.
Both threw absolutely everything at the other in the final lap, including almost coming to a standstill, track sprint-style, but it came down to a two-up sprint down the finishing straight, led out by Brand. Vos was able to surge off the wheel to take back the rainbow bands sixteen years after her first title. Third-place Persico crossed the line 51 seconds later.
Vos was the third world champion to be crowned on Saturday, joining 17-year-old Zoe Bäckstedt (Great Britain), who adds to the junior road title she won in September, and men’s U23 winner Joran Wyseure who topped an all-Belgian podium.